Arrested for illegal border crossing: What to expect

In Serbia, crossing a border illegally can get you a fine or even a prison sentence. Learn more about your rights and what to expect if you are arrested in Serbia.

Getting arrested

If the border police catch you when you are crossing the border illegally, and you don't want to express the intent to seek asylum in Serbia, they may arrest you.

Police mainly arrest people who they think have made multiple attempts to cross a border illegally.

If you are arrested, police will register you and add your personal data to the Serbian police database.

They will hold you in detention and file charges against you in misdemeanor court.

You will have better chances in court if you cooperate with the authorities now.


The police will probably charge you with illegal border crossing.

If you express your intention to seek asylum, the police will drop the charges.

Your last chance to express your intention to seek asylum in Serbia, and get your charges dropped, is when you are before the court.


Otherwise, the court will decide on your case.

If you get lucky, the misdemeanor court will give you a written warning.

But the court can also order you to pay a fine of between 5,000 and 50,000 RSD (€40-€420).

If you cannot pay the fine, you will go to prison instead. Each day you serve in prison counts as payment of 1,000 RSD of your fine.


How long you are in prison depends on the seriousness of your alleged offense, among other factors. The court usually gives short prison sentences in illegal border-crossing cases.

You can be sentenced to up to 3 months of detention. However, your detention can be extended for another 3 months.

If the misdemeanor court sentences you to prison, you will likely go to one of the penitentiaries in the border zones.

They are:

  • In Vranje, near the Macedonian border
  • In Subotica, near the Hungarian border
  • In Sremska Mitrovica, near the Croatian border
  • In Požarevac, near the Romanian border

After your sentence

After you pay the fine or serve your time in prison, you will get an order to leave Serbia within a certain time limit.

You cannot be charged and detained again for entering Serbia illegally because you are already in the Serbian police database.

However, the police can arrest and charge you for staying in Serbia without proper registration documents. These cases also go before the misdemeanor courts.

Asylum Office detention

The Asylum Office could hold you in the Shelter for Foreigners, part of a prison in Belgrade, if:

  • It needs to establish your identity
  • It wants to make sure you attend a criminal proceeding as a witness
  • It thinks that you represent a danger to national security and public order

Legal help

No matter what, you always have the right to seek legal help.

The Humanitarian Center for Integration and Tolerance provides free legal assistance. You can contact them.

If you are near Subotica call 00381646577052.
If you are near Šid call 00381656177255.
If you are anywhere else north of Belgrade call 0038121528132 or 0038121520030.

It is your right to get a translator/interpreter who speaks a language you fully understand. The courts must provide you one.

Cover photo: AFP