National Report – Serbia


Serbia is located in the central part of the Balkan peninsula. Its population excluding Kosovo is 7.15 million (2011 Census). Migrations are a significant socio-demographic phenomenon in Serbia. In the 90’s Serbia became major destination for numerous refugees from ex-Yugoslavia break-away republics (Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina). During the war in Kosovo in 1999 more than 200,000 people flied to Central Serbia and stayed until today bearing the status of the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Since 2015 and emerging of the so called Balkans migration route, Serbia has been the transit country for refugees and economic migrants from Middle East and Africa that are crossing the country in order to reach their final destinations in Western Europe.

Data about migrations in Serbia is collected in accordance with the Regulation 862/2007 of the European Parliament and the Council on Community statistics on migration and international protection [1]. 

Map showingthe Western Balkan migrant route to the EU, with close-up of Serbia-Hungary border © AFP

Balkans migration route

Balkans migration route stretches from Grece, over Macedonia and/or Bulgaria, to Hungary and Croatia towards Austria and Germany as migrants final destinations, placing Serbia in the middle of this corridor. In 2015 the total of 579,518 migrants comming from the Middle East and North African countries, registered as asylum seekers[2]. Out of this number, 313,335 were adult men, 92,188 adult women, and 173.284 children and youth. Majority (52%) were from Sirya, 28% from Afganistan, and 13% from Iraq.




In comparison with 16,500 asylum seekers that registered in 2014, this is a significant increase.

Out of the total number of those registered as asylum seekers, only 0.1% sougth asylum in Serbia while others said they plan to seek it in Western Europe. Final traveling destinations of migrants passing through Serbia are mostly Germany and Austria. In Serbia, migrants stay for the period of several days up to several months, i.e. as much as it takes to organize the continuation of their journey to the EU, and passing the border with Hungary and Croatia. 

Returnees on the basis of the Readmission Agreements

In 2015. the total of 4,974 Serbian citizens were returned to Serbia on the basis of the Readmission Agreement between Serbia and the EU. Out of this number ¾ were from Germany. 

Age structure of the returnees is constituted of 60 % of children and youth (33% age 0-14, 27% age 15-29).

Looking at ethnical structure, 82% of the returnees are Roma whereas 10% are Serbs.

Refugees from 90’s

In 2015, there were 35,295 registered refugees with temporary residence in Serbia (KIRS, 2015). Out of this number, 74% were from Croatia, 26% from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 45 persons (0.001%) from Slovenia and 1 person from Macedonia.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs)

In 2015 the total of 203,140 persons internally displaced from Kosovo are registered in Serbia, waiting to return to Kosovo (KIRS, 2015). Most of them are ethnic Serbs, Roma and Gorani.  In the same period 304 IDPs returned to Kosovo, out of which 22% were of age 15-29.


Top 5 nationalities immigrating to Serbia in 2015 (KIRS, 2015):

FYR Macedonia8.9%

Most of them regulated their residence status on the basis of the work permit (KIRS, 2015).


In 2015 the total of 1,506 migrants were deported from Serbia, out of which 144 at the age of 14-20 (9,56%), and 1,164 at the age of 20-40 (77,29%). The rationale for deportation of 155 migrants was their involvement in illegal activities. Out of this number, 39% belong to a group of youth migrants.


Refugee – a person fleeing armed conflict or persecution. Their situation is often so perilous and intolerable that they cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries, and thus become internationally recognized as “refugees” with access to assistance from States, UNHCR, and other organizations. They are so recognized precisely because it is too dangerous for them to return home, and they need sanctuary elsewhere. These are people for whom denial of asylum has potentially deadly consequences.

Migrant – a person choosing to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons. Unlike refugees who cannot safely return home, migrants face no such impediment to return. If they choose to return home, they will continue to receive the protection of their government.

Immigrant – a person coming to live in a foreign country for a period longer than 12 months.

Asylum seeker – a foreign person who submits request for asylum on the territory of the Republic of Serbia and on whose request final decision has not been issued.

Internaly displaced person – a person urged to leave his/her place of residence as a consequence of war or in order to avoid the effects of an armed conflict, general violence, violation of human rights, natural catastrofies, or human factor hazards, but who did not cross internationally recognized state boundaries.

Readmission – the process of return and acceptance of persons who do not, or no longer, fulfil the legal conditions for entry to, presence in, or residence on the territory of another state. Readmission procedure is carried out on the basis of the signed agreements on readmission between the countries.

Returnees based on the Readmission Agreement – persons who have been returned or who returns, and it was determined that such person is the citizen of one of the Contracting Parties. It may be:

  1. Person who illegally entered or illegally residing on the territory of other Contracting Party; b. Person who, after the expiration of visa or residence which does not require visas, illegally stayed on the territory of the other Contracting Party; c. Person who at the end of short-term residence permits issued by one of the Contracting Parties illegally residing in its territory; d. Person whose case is, before the relevant governmental body of the other Contracting Party and whose request for asylum has been rejected or else whose asylum request has been suspended, and has been obliged to leave the territory of other contracting party. 

Brief introduction to Youth Work in Serbia

Youth work in Serbia is defined as [3]: such youth activities organized by and for young people, based on non-formal education, carried out in young people’s free time and undertaken with the aim of improving the conditions for personal and social development of young people, in accordance with their needs and abilities, in which young people voluntarily participate;

Youth work in Serbia is grounded on the following 3 principles:

  1. Preparing and encouraging young people for active participation in the society
  2. Encouraging young people to continuously develop
  3. Encouraging and promoting of the accepting and understanding of others

Youth worker in Serbia is defined as [4]: a professional affiliated to a NGO or other institution implementing youth work activities, and whose competences are defined by professional standards in youth work.

Youth work has still not been embedded into Serbian Occupations Framework. However, it has been recognized and described as a contemporary profession by the governmental working group on updating of National Occupations Framework. There are 3 youth work professions described and pending to be enacted into the National Occupations Framework:

  1. Youth activist/leader
  2. Youth worker/coordinator of youth work program
  3. Youth work specialist

Historical development of youth work in Serbia

End of 90s – first youth work projects in Serbia introduced by youth NGOs with the support of more experienced international NGOs

2007 – Serbia Ministry of Youth and Sports established as the starting point in institutionalization of youth policy and systemic care for youth

2009 – National Association of Youth Workers in Serbia (NAPOR) established as umbrella organization of youth workers and youth NGOs with the aim to advocate for professionalization of youth work

2010 – Quality standards of youth work programs and Youth work profession standards developed by NAPOR

2015 – Youth work profession standards included in new national classification of occupations (still in draft version)



[3] Serbian Law on Youth, article 3

[4] Glossary of youth policy,, page 36