In March 2018, Serbia adopted its new Law on Foreigners, which will come into force in October. The new Law introduces some provisions that could improve the situation of undocumented and stateless people in the country. Firstly, it introduces the possibility of postponing the removal from Serbia of individuals whose identity cannot be determined through no fault of their own due to lack of identity documents. If removal is postponed, a temporary ID card may be issued entitling the holder to urgent medical assistance and access to primary education for minors. The new law also allows people whose removal has been postponed for at least a year to register for temporary stay on humanitarian grounds, irrespective of whether they meet the conditions otherwise required for temporary residence.
However, undermining this positive change, is the worrying introduction of a presumption that someone is obstructing return or removal if their identity can’t be determined or they don’t have a travel document. Moreover, this obstruction is grounds for prolonging detention. The application of these provisions would effectively undo the positive changes on postponement of removal and granting of temporary stay on humanitarian grounds.
One further positive change under the new law is the introduction of a requirement that less coercive measures are considered prior to making a decision to detain. Detention may now only be ordered if it is not possible to effectively apply alternatives.