South-Eastern Europe

Operational information on the South-Eastern Europe subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:

| Albania | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Montenegro | North Macedonia | Serbia (and Kosovo: Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)) |

Subregion: South-Eastern Europe


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The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.


  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion South-Eastern Europe

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2020 {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"budget":[61.005667061,68.10731265999999,61.208116593,45.123828406,31.50136019,34.76735289],"expenditure":[34.31168599,40.20730776,35.435352789999996,26.13463161,23.117649700000005,23.200723810000003]} {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"p1":[28.612472566,40.97210448,36.436015723,39.690538476,26.70818617,30.169644050000002],"p2":[3.844207253,3.55188212,3.27451216,5.43328993,4.7931740199999995,4.59770884],"p3":[5.793305568,3.8070055,3.81259232,null,null,null],"p4":[22.755681673999998,19.77632056,17.684996390000002,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"p1":[20.24093268,27.853020219999998,24.1738277,22.97823708,20.180273170000003,20.04756069],"p2":[2.32336862,2.35699038,2.40666505,3.1563945299999996,2.93737653,3.1531631200000003],"p3":[2.02776035,1.7993933999999998,1.89969319,null,null,null],"p4":[9.71962434,8.197903759999999,6.9551668499999995,null,null,null]}
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People of Concern - 2020

[["Refugees",32830],["Refugee-like situation",118],["Asylum-seekers",1349],["IDPs",309323],["Returned IDPs",375],["Returned refugees",24],["Stateless",7151],["Others of concern",17783]]
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Response in 2020

In 2020, UNHCR’s three priorities in the region were to: 1) build the capacity of national asylum systems, including identification of, and access for, people in need of international protection; 2) promote solutions for people displaced during the 1990s; and 3) address and prevent statelessness.

In 2020, the South-Eastern Europe region faced continued mixed movements of asylum-seekers and migrant—transiting in the hope of reaching western and northern Europe—but also with the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which further reduced the protection space. Although national lockdowns and border closures resulted in a temporary reduction in the number of arrivals, there were 52,500 new arrivals in 2020, a slight decrease when compared with 53,000 reported in 2019. However, border closure, the suspension of registration of all foreigners and asylum procedures, restriction of movement of asylum-seekers and migrants, overcrowded reception facilities and limited access to asylum facilities by UNHCR staff, impacted the provision of protection to asylum-seekers and refugees. Despite UNHCR’s advocacy effort towards the resumption of the registration of asylum procedures, the number of applications in the region did not reach pre–COVID-19 levels, as only an estimated 4,600 people were able to file an application in 2020 compared to 12,000 in 2019. Furthermore, in 2020, only 85 people were granted refugee or subsidiary protection compared to 133 in 2019 and 138 in 2018. People granted protection in the region nevertheless continued to face integration challenges such as lack of effective access to some of the rights provided by law, thus hindering livelihood prosects.

While the main strategic objective of UNHCR in the sub-region was—and will continue to be in the years ahead—to support South-Eastern Europe in undertaking a strategic shift from being primarily a region of transit towards one which offers durable solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers, UNHCR in 2020 worked with partners to address the most pressing needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing restrictions. It also advocated with the relevant authorities to include people of concern into national COVID-19 response plans. UNHCR expanded its cash assistance initiatives and supported some 267 people of concern whose livelihoods were impacted by the pandemic restrictions. Within the more restrictive protection context, UNHCR nevertheless adapted its way of working and continued to provide legal assistance to 5,300 individuals and legal counselling on asylum procedures to 17,000 individuals. UNHCR worked with partners to support hygiene and social distancing measures in reception and registration centres and provided PPEs and other equipment to support continued asylum procedures or online activities such as opportunities for adult and children to pursue their educational or language classes online.

UNHCR also continued its close cooperation with the wide range of actors and drafted a new regional Strategy for Engagement in Mixed Movements in the Western Balkans. Bridging the humanitarian nexus, UNHCR engaged within the UNSDCFs at the regional level to ensure that no refugees, asylum-seekers, IDPs and nor stateless persons are left behind, but rather fully included in sustainable development plans.

In 2020, UNHCR remained committed to facilitating durable solutions for populations displaced in the region during the 1990s, most notably in the context of the Sarajevo Process and the Regional Housing Programme (RHP) which was extended until 2022. Since the launch of the RHP, housing solutions have been provided to over 7,800 of the most vulnerable displaced, refugee and returnee families, which is two-thirds of the total number targeted (11,800) by the Programme before its planned closure in June 2022.

UNHCR continued to work with partners to address statelessness by commenting on draft legislations, supporting the establishment of Stateless Determination Procedures and welcomed North Macedonia’s accession to the Statelessness Convention in January 2020. Over 1,100 people in the region were supported in 2020 to acquire a civil document such as a birth certificate or were able to confirm their citizenship.

Operations with no individual operation summary

In Albania, UNHCR supported the Government in implementing a new approach which entails differentiated pathways and procedures (based on whether a person is found to be in need of international protection or not) to efficiently manage increased mixed movements. UNHCR and partners continued monitoring borders, provided asylum information, and assessed vulnerabilities of some 14,400 new arrivals, strengthened local structures and advocated to address post-lockdown limitations in access to asylum. UNHCR and the Interior Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance operational cooperation. The Government began issuing ID cards to refugees, thus increasing integration prospects. Partners provided services and assistance to 117 people of concern to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. To prevent statelessness, UNHCR worked closely with the Parliament on the adoption of a new Citizenship Law. In this regard, 238 key officials were trained, and 470 people were assisted with confirmation of their nationality.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNHCR supported the asylum system and reception conditions through capacity-building, free legal aid, community-based protection, and advocacy interventions. UNHCR also worked closely with the relevant authorities to enhance access to, and the efficiency of, the asylum procedures. UNHCR and partners were regularly present in all reception centres and key field locations to provide information and support for those seeking asylum. Legal aid was provided to more than 5,000 people while psychosocial support to some 3,961 individuals. One person was granted refugee status, 31 people received subsidiary protection, and 14 refugees naturalized (including four former refugees from Croatia). All 21 undocumented foreign children born in 2020 were supported to obtain a birth certificate.

In Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)), UNHCR advocated for effective registration and documentation, legal representation and counselling, protection interventions, monitoring and advocacy, as well as the search for durable solutions. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR ensured that asylum-seekers and refugees were provided with quarantine facilities and had access to information through online information sources as well free telephone helplines. UNHCR supported the local authorities in improving accommodation capacity and quality in the asylum centres, including the provision of internet access to facilitate e-learning opportunities. A total of 11 asylum-seekers were granted refugee status, while three received subsidiary protection; 240 unregistered individuals benefited from legal aid for late birth registration; for the first time, four positive stateless status decisions were issued.

In Montenegro, the pace of new arrivals declined by 50% compared to 2019, in part due to COVID-19 border restrictions. Some 2,800 people registered an intention to seek asylum and 539 people lodged an asylum request. All asylum-seekers regained access to refugee status determination procedures after the Montenegro court challenged the rejection of asylum claims on the basis of the safe third country concept. Furthermore, eight long-term asylum-seekers were granted refugee status. UNHCR worked with the Government to ensure the inclusion of asylum-seekers and refugees into the national COVID-19 response plan. Two people were recognized as de jure stateless, raising the number of people with regularized status through the statelessness determination procedure to five.

In North Macedonia, despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the asylum procedure continued without interruption as the Government introduced, with UNHCR support, remote asylum interviews and successfully tested the online interpretation platform provided through the Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI). UNHCR provided legal counselling to 3,963 people and legal assistance to 394 people to access their basic rights. UNHCR advocated with the authorities to include people of concern into the national COVID-19 response plan and provided PPEs to frontline workers and people of concern. UNHCR actively engaged in the UNSDCF 2021-2025 to ensure that no refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons are left behind but rather fully included in the path towards the sustainable development of the country.  

In Serbia, UNHCR continued to support the asylum system through capacity-building and provision of information and interpretation. In 2020, some 3,800 people were counselled on asylum, 135 asylum-seekers were represented by UNHCR’s legal partners in the asylum procedure (including 17 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC)) of which 28 were granted international protection. Reception conditions were enhanced and services for persons with specific needs were provided. In particular, the guardianship system for UASC was further developed. The economic and socio-cultural integration of people of concern was supported through access to the labour market (13 people), education (121 children and 43 adults), private accommodation (25 people) and cash assistance (96 people). In terms of preventing statelessness, some 84 people had nationality granted or confirmed and 323 people obtained ID cards.

Working environment and response in 2020

The countries in South East Europe have extensive experience in receiving people in need of international protection including refugees, IDPs and stateless persons. During the 1990s, refugees and IDPs were mostly from within the region but over the past few years, an increasing number of people, among which are people in need of international protection, come from further afield, particularly from Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Palestine, the Syrian Arab Republic, Somalia and countries of North Africa. They transit to South East Europe through Turkey and Greece. The vast majority continue to move irregularly onward towards Western Europe. Many lodge multiple asylum claims in one or more of the south-eastern Europe countries while transiting, but the great majority depart before their asylum claims have been processed and their protection needs determined. On 1 July 2019, some 5,900 people were in the asylum process or had received refugee status.
As the European Union and its member states strengthen their border control mechanisms, an increasing number of people in mixed movements, among which some may be in need of international protection, continue to arrive in South East Europe. The existing asylum mechanisms are to date still neither sufficiently equipped nor adapted to this new situation, despite the efforts which have been made to build and develop the capacity of government counterparts (asylum offices, border police and other relevant ministries and institutions), including through training and other learning events, as well as through follow-up on legislative revisions to better identify and protect persons in need of international protection. Asylum capacities across the region need to be scaled up and strengthened to address existing gaps in the asylum cycle - from identification, referral and service provision, to determination of protection needs and status, and support for durable solutions, including returns when no international protection needs or other grounds for remaining in the host country have been identified. The EU accession process represents both an important vehicle and a unique opportunity to support the countries of the region in addressing these issues.
In addition, the region still hosts some 5,000 persons at risk of statelessness. The protection environment for persons at risk of statelessness in the region has improved with the introduction of new legislative provisions, in part due to UNHCR’s cooperation with the EU, Council of Europe, the OSCE and Ombudspersons’ offices. The positive trend is likely to continue with the recent accessions to the statelessness conventions, new stateless determination procedures and legislation changes that prevents or addresses statelessness. The lack of personal documents, as well as, in some countries, the collection of comprehensive data on persons at risk of statelessness remains a challenge. 
UNHCR will continue to provide legal assistance and SGBV support to people displaced in the region during the conflicts of the 1990s while working closely with the OSCE to provide guidance and support to the Regional Housing Programme that should be completed at the end of 2021. 

In 2020, UNHCR will target four main objectives:
1. Strengthen capacities of States and other stakeholders to address mixed movements and identify persons in need of international protection, through assistance in aligning their asylum legislation and practice with international and EU standards and ensuring its effective implementation through the deployment of a Quality Assurance initiative. 
2. Create synergies between activities of relevant international and regional organizations and, building on ongoing initiatives and existing fora, identify areas where common approaches can be developed to provide more targeted support to States, so as to promote cost-effectiveness and avoid duplication of efforts. 
3. UNHCR will continue to advocate for States to take measures to eliminate statelessness and will continue to provide legal assistance to people at risk of statelessness in the region.
4. Support States in South East Europe in finding durable solutions, including for displaced people from the region. 

2020 Budget and Expenditure in South-Eastern Europe | USD

Operation Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
Albania Budget
Bosnia and Herzegovina Budget
Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)) Budget
Montenegro Budget
North Macedonia Budget
Serbia Budget
Total Budget

2020 Voluntary Contributions to South-Eastern Europe | USD

Earmarking / Donor Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
South-Eastern Europe overall
European Union 2,634,44300 2,634,443
South-Eastern Europe overall subtotal 2,634,44300 2,634,443
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 2,58800 2,588
UN Albania SDG Acceleration Fund 23,39900 23,399
United States of America 001,100,000 1,100,000
Albania subtotal 25,98701,100,000 1,125,987
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Czech Republic 0085,256 85,256
European Union 441,47400 441,474
International Organization for Migration 139,56500 139,565
Private donors in Italy 00307 307
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 2,31800 2,318
United States of America 002,500,000 2,500,000
Bosnia and Herzegovina subtotal 583,35802,585,563 3,168,920
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 11,50900 11,509
UN COVID-19 MPTF 175,04400 175,044
United States of America 001,100,000 1,100,000
Kosovo subtotal 186,55301,100,000 1,286,553
Joint SDG Fund 0081,067 81,067
Montenegro 00102,058 102,058
United States of America 00900,000 900,000
Montenegro subtotal 001,083,125 1,083,125
Czech Republic 00835,771 835,771
Private donors in Italy 0035,842 35,842
Private donors in Serbia 45,02900 45,029
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 10,35000 10,350
Russian Federation 0100,0000 100,000
Serbia 0094,202 94,202
United States of America 002,400,000 2,400,000
Serbia subtotal 55,379100,0003,365,815 3,521,194
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 15,52500 15,525
United States of America 001,400,000 1,400,000
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia subtotal 15,52501,400,000 1,415,525
Total 3,501,244100,00010,634,503 14,235,747
Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

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  • 14-OCT-2021
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  • 12-OCT-2021

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  • 09-OCT-2021

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  • 08-OCT-2021
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  • 06-OCT-2021
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  • 04-OCT-2021

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