Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme (AVRR) In Western Balkans

Project Duration: 01 January 2019 – 31 December 2021

Project Partners: Governmental institutions and migrant communities in the Western Balkans


European Commission through IPA II fund and bilateral contributions by the German Federal Foreign Office, Austrian Ministry of Interior and Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security's Repatriation and Departure Service.

Project Description

This project aims to support sustainable return and reintegration of migrants voluntary returning from the Western Balkans to their countries of origin and contribute to orderly and safe migration.

Project objective:

The project objectives are aiming to encompass a set of interventions designed to strengthen the provision of assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) for migrants in the Western Balkans who are not in need of international protection and who wish to return home to their countries of origin in a safe and dignified manner. Project aims to assist migrants to return home based on informed decisions and comprehensive protection of their fundamental rights and supporting migrants in reintegrating in communities to which they return.

Project activities:

  • Information and counseling on voluntary return in the migrant’s native language, as well as logistic and financial support in travel planning;
  • Support in procuring the travel document and covering all expenses related to this process;
  • Support at the airport upon arrival and, if necessary, during the transit and arrival;
  • For the vulnerable categories, a monetary compensation is provided for reintegration, in order to cover expenses in the initial period upon return. The IOM office in the country of origin enables support that may be used for the purpose of education, initiating business or business investments, medical requirements or, if necessary, partial coverage of accommodation costs. Additional support is provided to specific categories of vulnerable migrants.

For more information please visit project website -

Project Status: Ongoing

Project Area: Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration

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: Ongoing

Project Area: Other

Mitigating Adverse Effects of Internal Migration

Project Duration: 01 September 2019 – 31 August 2021

Project Partners: Ministry for Population Policy and Demography (MPPD), Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (SCRM)

Donors: IOM Development Fund (IDF)

Project Description

This project aims to support the mainstreaming of selected national priorities, focusing on internal migration of youth, into local sector planning, thus aligning migration with key development priorities, through strengthened vertical coordination and targeted capacity building for this exercise. 

Project objective: 

The project objective comprises of two outcomes.

Outcome One: to strengthen policy and institutional linkages between migration governance and sustainable development;

Outcome Two: supporting the development and implementation of measures for operationalizing national migration priorities in the context of local development strategies.

Project activities

  • Identify available expertise and provide secondment in coordination with government counterparts;
  • Organize regular meetings with national/local stakeholders and provide daily inputs to the government institutions (Ministry for Population and Demography and Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration), including on migration profiles, MGI, VNR, and contributions to national SDG processes);
  • Organize two capacity-building events with central and local level practitioners to provide expertise, knowledge and guidance to local levels;
  • Produce a systematic vertical coordination mechanism;
  • Recruit a consultant to organize local consultations with local migration management stakeholders in selected communities to draft/update local plans;
  • Prepare needs assessment methodology;
  • Carry out needs assessment and local consultations in selected communities, including a focus groups with youth;
  • Carry out validation process and integrate comments from stakeholders;
  • Launch the call for initiatives;
  • Carry out consultations with the project steering board to evaluate and select the local initiatives, including with youth;
  • Provide grants for the local initiatives (one per municipality) and monitor and supervise the implementation;

Project Status: Ongoing

Project Area: Migration and Development

Special measure on supporting the Republic of Serbia to improve border management in the context of the European Migration Crisis – Phase 3

Project Duration: November 2018 - June 2020

Project Partners: Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Interior, Border Police Directorate

Donors: European Union

Overall objective

The overall objective is to extend the support to the Republic of Serbia to further conduct its border and migration management operations primarily at the border with Bulgaria and North Macedonia or at other border segments depending on potential changes to the migratory flows, in the context of the consequences of the European migration crisis of 2015-2016.

Specific objective

The specific objective is to support border and migration management capabilities of the Republic of Serbia, including systematic border control procedures, enhanced capacity for border surveillance, the identification and registration of third-country nationals crossing the border, countering migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings (THB) and other types of cross-border crime, in full respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights.

Expected results

  • Strengthened operational capacity of the Serbian Border Police Directorate in conducting border management activities, in line with relevant European Union (EU) and international standards and best practices, by deploying at least 1500 border police officers while facilitating on-the-job transfer of EU Member States knowledge and experience to the national Border Police.
  • Increased border surveillance capacity of the Serbian Border Police Directorate through provision of specialized equipment leading to improved border security and management.
  • Improved knowledge of at least 100 Serbian border police officers on present border management laws and bylaws

Project Status: Ongoing

Project Area: Other

Regional AVRR Projects

Project Duration: January 2019 - Mid 2021

Project Partners: Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (SCRM), Department for Foreigners of the Border Police Directorate, Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia

Donors: Germany – Federal Foreign OfficeGovernment of Austria, Ministry of InteriorDutch Repatriation and Departure Services to the Western Balkans

Joint Objective:

Increased access and availability of services to migrants to return to their countries of origin (CoO).

Outcome 1:

  • Increased outreach - currently approximately 90 locations are covered, including reception/asylum centers, hotspots/public spaces, border areas etc. in all 6 countries
  • Information dissemination – info campaigns, info sessions, leaflets and brochures etc.
  • Improved coordination and cooperation with other service providers e.g. police, health institutions, social services providers.

Outcome 2:

  • Increased capacities for implementation of the AVRR services in the Western Balkans – e.g. national and regional trainings, development of the WB AVRR Curriculum

Outcome 3:

  • Promotion of sustainable reintegration – e.g. info campaigns, reintegration counselling on all 90 locations

Outcome 4:

  • Support to the voluntary return and reintegration
  • Migrants in need of return support turn to IOM for information on voluntary return options
  • Western Balkan governments support the program through effective operationalisation of national AVRR frameworks
  • Migrants are provided with information and counselling subsequently upon return to CoO 

Main partners:

  • Albania: Albanian Border and Migration State Police;
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Service for Foreigners’ Affairs and the Sector for Asylum, both under the Ministry of Security of BiH, responsible for the registration and reception of foreign nationals, and the asylum process;
  • North Macedonia: The Border Police; the Ministry of Interior; and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy;
  • Montenegro: The Border Police Sector and Directorate for Civil Affairs and Personal Documents, under the Ministry of Interior;
  • Serbia: The Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (SCRM) and the Department for Foreigners of the Border Police Directorate, Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia;
  • Kosovo*: The Department for Citizenship, Asylum and Migration (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and the Border Police Division for Migrants and Foreigners;

* - This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

Project Status: Ongoing

Project Area: Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration

Regional Support to Protection-Sensitive Migration Management in the Western Balkans and Turkey – Phase II

Project Duration: 2019 - 2021

Project Partners: EBCGA, EASO and UNHCR

Donors: European Union

Project description: This is a European Union-funded programme implemented in six Western Balkans beneficiaries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*[1], Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey in partnership with EBCGA, EASO and UNHCR. It aims to provide a comprehensive and holistic regional approach to migration management systems in the framework of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA II) and as part of the EU accession processes of the beneficiaries. The Programme focuses on introducing and sharing EU standards and best practices on migration management while supporting the beneficiaries to develop an effective response to mixed migration flows.

Project activities

  • Organizing regional workshops for social workers on best interest assessment and determination and developing a guidance with a view of migration context including transfer of EU practice
  • Delivering interpretation and cultural mediation services to migrants
  • Providing legal and operational support to standardization of terminology, methodology and data systematisation of migration statistics through a participatory process
  • Organizing regional trainings with Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) practitioners on national AVRR implementations
  • Facilitating contacts between countries on readmission issues through meetings with Consular and Diplomatic representations of migrant’s top countries of origin
  • Designing, accrediting and delivering innovative social services to cater for the needs of vulnerable migrants

Expected results

  • Improved identification, registration and referral of mixed migration flows
  • Enhanced information collection, exchange and analysis mechanisms, in line with relevant EU standards
  • Strengthened voluntary return mechanisms and operations
  • Resilient local communities are created and social cohesion is improved

[1] This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

Project Status: Ongoing

Project Area: Other

Assisted Voluntary Return from Switzerland

Project Duration: Mid 2002 - ongoing

Donors: Swiss FOM (Federal Office for Migration)

The Swiss FOM (Federal Office for Migration) provides operational input and makes final decisions on the individual reintegration assistance to be provided to the returnee. IOM Belgrade has started processing returnees under the AVR Switzerland in the middle of 2002 and this programme is still active. The total number of cases assisted by IOM Belgrade since mid 2002 until December 2011 is: 221 cases or 530 persons.

Project Status: Ongoing

Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme –VARRP Ireland

Project Duration: 2005 - ongoing

Donors: ...

The Reintegration Fund provides financial support for reintegration activities in countries of origin of returnees from Ireland who are eligible for reintegration assistance. The VARRP – UK programme became operational in 2005 and is open-ended. The total number of processed cases is 13.

IOM Belgrade provides reintegration assistance to the returnees from Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Luxembourg, France, Finland, Romania and Norway on case-by-case bases.  The mentioned AVR programmes are open-ended. The total number of processed returnees until December 2011 is 350.

Project Status: Ongoing