Given the recent refugee crisis in Serbia, the topic of migration has become a key priority of the government. While this is positive in terms of visibility and entry points for migration and development, displacement issues have at times overshadowed this and led to a much more humanitarian approach. However, the programme has successfully supported the mainstreaming of migration into three sectoral policies for youth, education and employment and the implementation of these through four pilot projects. A technical working group on mixed migration flows was set up in 2015 among various government entities which supports migration data sharing and monitoring but has not quite helped support coordination. What was beneficial in supporting coordination in this regard was the National Project Board set up by the programme. The programme also supported development of a report ‘Inclusion of Indicators in the Context of the Migration-Specific and Migration-related Targets of the SDGs’. Finally, a national information event introduced the GCM to national stakeholders before the sub-regional consultative event on the GCM to which the Government of Serbia took part in, and into which the experience of the Programme was fed.
The evidence base on M&D was strengthened for enhanced planning, policy development and M&E at national level through:
- Four targeted studies conducted on the impact of labour migration on demographic trends and the labour market in Serbia; the status of migration mainstreaming in academic curricula; the impact of education in minority language on migration; and on internal and external migration (with special emphasis on youth). A White Paper on M&D has also been produced. These includes 38 public policy recommendations.
- The development of an Extended Migration Profile (EMP), with M&D incorporated, based on the review of the existing Migration Profiles, procedures for and how these were carried out.
- A report on the “Inclusion of Indicators in the Context of the Migration-Specific and Migration-Related Targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” was prepared through consultative process with the CRM and key beneficiaries.
Serbia achieved the mainstreaming of migration into policy planning as per the following:
- Development and approval of the 2016&2017 Employment Action Plan (EAP), which includes the development of mobility programmes for unemployed persons, recommendations from the first and fourth study (see above), and encourages mobility and migration for development.
- Revising the National Employment Strategy 2011-2020 to incorporate recommendations from the studies on labour migration and on internal and external migration with special emphasis on youth in the part related to demographic trends.
- Drafting of the Action Plan on Chapter 23 on EU Accession on education of minorities, which plans to adapt the education system to prepare minority students for social integration, to align the education model on the EU screening recommendations, and to allow for equal studying of Serbian language, minority and foreign languages.
- Migration has also incorporated measures on the education of minorities in the Action plan of the EU Acquis Chapter 24 on EU Accession (Justice, freedom, security – a high priority for the government).
- The National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 (NYS) was developed, which recognizes the provision of support for young migrants and the prevention and fighting against irregular migration as priorities, supports the activities of accepting and working with young migrants at the local level, and favors the systematic inclusion of young migrants’ representatives into planning and implementation of activities.
Serbia also kick-started implementation of the new policies with the following activities:
- Inclusion of social service providers in migration management for 5 municipalities’ social services, which aims at improving the coherence of local social welfare policies of significance for migration by strengthening mechanisms for the coordination of social welfare services, which includes training local coordinators in providing protection.
- Enhancing capacities on migration for 5 Local Migration Councils (LMCs), in order to adapt to the new migration context of Serbia, positioned along the so-called Western Balkan route, to increase the knowledge and competences of the LMC members as key stakeholders at the local level, and to strengthen cooperation within and between LMCs.
- Cooperation between youth offices and diaspora associations in 5 local communities, in the form of forums to define the future model of cooperation and of summer schools to implement proposed joint activities.
- Development of M&D curricula at master’s level, which brought together experts and professors from six faculties (Economy, Philosophy, Political Science, Security, Law and Geographic) of the University of Belgrade, and the Faculty of Political Science from Zagreb, leading to the launch of the first master programme on migration in the Western Balkans at the University of Belgrade, including a module on M&D, with scholarships for civil servants working in relevant state institutions.
In order to achieve greater institutional coherence and sustained coordination by government and other stakeholders, the following actions were carried out:
- In Serbia, the Programme developed synergies with three other initiatives: o GIZ M&D projects
-Swiss-Serbian Migration Dialogue
-SDC Migration Network’s Global Meeting on M&D
- In Serbia, institutional coherence is ensured by the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (CRM). The goals and priorities of Serbia's overall migration policy are managed by the CRM. Besides the Commissariat there are several ministries with competences for migration (Ministries of Interior, Labour, Foreign Affairs, Education, Health as well as specialized bodies such as the Council for Integration of Returnees under the Readmission Agreements, the Council for Combating Human Trafficking, the Council for Combating Illegal Migration, etc.) At the central level, policy making institution in migration area, the Coordination Body for Migration Monitoring and Management (CBMMM), is responsible for providing guidance on the operations of ministries and special organizations in defining goals and priorities of the migration policy, as well as monitoring and managing migration at the national level. The Coordination Body ensures, through its activity, a unique policy and harmonization of activities undertaken by competent ministries in the field of migration, by directing the activities of ministries and special organizations. Expert, operational, administrative and technical tasks for the Coordination Body are carried out by the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration. Other relevant coordination mechanisms include the ad-hoc Working Group on Mixed Migration Flows, consisting of representatives from ministries and the CRM, and the Technical Working group (TWG) for Development of the Migration Profile.
- At the local level, vertical coordination is ensured through Local Migration Councils, who report to the national Commissariat for Refugees and Migration on migration issues in the territory of the local self-government units and the autonomous provinces. More than 150 local self-governments have established Local Migration Councils composed of representatives of various institutions on the local level relevant for the realization of the rights of migrants, with the goal to coordinate activities of local administration, police administration, employment service, school administration, local trustee, a health center, a center for social work, Red Cross and civil society organizations.
Challenges, solutions and lessons learned
The inception phase was extended due to severe flooding and state of emergency in the country. The Programme also experienced changes in political leadership, which necessitated flexibility in the implementation of activities. The most important challenge has been the migration crisis in Europe, with over 700,000 refugees and migrants transiting through Serbia (daily influx of around 5,000 in some periods) from the beginning of 2015. It became a priority for the Government, and the needs of refugees and migrants changed while the migration route closed, as it resulted in numbers of migrants entering in an irregular manner.
While the programme has not been directly affected by this and some of the pilot projects were in fact addressing this crisis, the government considered it to be top priority where most of the government funds were invested. The programme was working closely with its partners, which were at the same time key stakeholders in providing national response to the migrant crisis, to ensure that expected results are achieved. Thus, it was necessary to ensure communication on M&D was done alongside the migration crisis in order to ensure that migration mainstreaming was not considered a further burden to state capacities. This was challenging with regards to the public given the increasingly polarized views of migration and anti-migrant sentiment which has led the word ‘migrant’ be become toxic and invoke an immediate association to crises and asylum seekers and ‘illegal’ migrants.
The NPB meetings proved to be a good platform for exchange of experiences and information at the central level as it served to enhance information sharing and strengthen ties between government authorities in charge of migration issues. The programme also frequently engaged the TWG for input provision for studies and data collection for the Extended Migration Profile.
It proved to be difficult to create enough interest in migration and development at the sectoral level. Thus it was necessary to demonstrate how M&D can achieve tangible, sector-related results to ensure buy in.