Addressing COVID-19 challenges within the Migrant and Refugee Response in the Western Balkans

Project Duration: 
April 2020 – June 2021
Project Partners: 
Implementation partner: UNHCR
Partner institutions/beneficiaries in Serbia: Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Health (MoH), Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (SCRM), Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs (MoLEVSA)
European Union (EU) Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP)


The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken by governments to prevent and control the spread of the virus are having an unprecedented impact on mobility, and on border and migration management systems. In the Western Balkans, cross-border movements have been restricted and quarantine or isolation measures were put in place for travelers. With the progressive re-opening of borders, updated procedures for screening and handling ill passengers will become necessary, as well as increased supplies of protective equipment for border police officials, to ensure their safety while not disrupting passengers’ movements. The pandemic also affected around 21,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers currently present in the region, putting reception and protection systems under additional pressure.

Overall project objective:

The overall objective of this action is to protect migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable persons by ensuring that systems and services in place are supported, reinforced and can be quickly adapted to the measures that must be implemented in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Specific objectives:

  • Enhance authorities’ preparedness to respond to the pandemic and ensure continuity of services
  • Prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among migrants, asylum seekers and refugees
  • Ensure the protection of the most vulnerable and counter the negative effects of public health prevention measures

Planned IOM activities in Serbia:

  • Organization of regular inter-institutional coordination meetings and development and updating of a country-specific action plan for the project activities.
  • Procure and distribute PPE and other disease prevention equipment and supplies for the border authorities.
  • Monitoring of the Public Health and Covid-19 Response in migrant reception and asylum centres and identify/refer needs related to implementation of isolation and disinfection measures, availability of PPE and other disease prevention supplies, available/needed medical staff, equipment and care, access to health services and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS).
  • Procure disease prevention and treatment equipment and supplies for healthcare workers providing services to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in reception and asylum centers and relevant health institutions.
  • Strengthen effective information, education and communication activities related to COVID-19, including on prevention and risk mitigation, access to healthcare services and protection targeting migrants and asylum seekers in and outside reception centres.
  • Procure information boards/screens for tailored and accessible information related to COVID-19 in relevant languages for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. 
  • Provide psychosocial support (PSS) through occupational, educational, creative and other activities supporting wellbeing of migrants and cohesion of migrant families and communities.
  • Provide direct tailored assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in vulnerable situation in reception and asylum centres through a Direct Assistance Fund.

Project Status: 
Project Area: