Serbia's government has said that they are ready to accommodate refugees from Ukraine. However, NGO Asylum Protection Center has claimed that Serbia does currently not have enough places to accommodate all refugees who are expected to arrive.
The Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration declared that it "has ready capacities for urgent reception of refugees from Ukraine, if necessary," in a statement published on Monday (February 28). The agency said that "at the moment, the Commissariat has vacant capacities that are on standby and can be put into operation at any time."
However, the number of Ukrainian refugees could soon exceed Serbia's reception capacity, according to a prominent refugee aid organization.
Rados Djurovic, the director of Asylum Protection Center, said on Monday that Serbia is currently able to host 6,000 refugees, but that more than 10,000 refugees are expected to soon arrive from Ukraine.
"The proximity of Ukraine requires us to start preparing for the sudden arrival of people. We appeal to the state to increase its reception capacity as soon as possible," he told Radio Free Europe.
Djurovic also said that how many Ukrainian refugees arrive in Serbia will depend on whether neighboring countries like Hungary -- which is located between Serbia and Ukraine -- will provide support and stay permits.
First refugees have arrived
He told the radio station that the first Ukrainians who arrived in Serbia had reached out to the NGO on Saturday, and that requests for advice had since continued. "For now, these are people who [have] relatives and friends [in Serbia]. They are asking us how and where to register and how to get protection while they are in the country," he said.
Serbia is situated along the so-called Balkan route -- the route from Turkey and Greece to Western Europe used by many migrants and refugees hoping to reach western Europe by land.
In 2015, more than one million refugees coming from central Asia and the Middle East reportedly crossed through Serbia.
Since then, many countries have built walls and barriers along their borders and boosted controls -- several countries have been accussed of carrying out violent pushbacks. However, thousands of migrants and refugees are still setting out on the Balkan route, often living in makeshift camps, hoping to eventually reach western Europe.