Serbia offers citizenship to Afghan 'Little Picasso'

Belgrade (AFP) –


Serbia on Wednesday offered citizenship to the family of a young Afghan refugee who has become known as "Little Picasso" for his artistic talent, the president's office said.

Ten-year-old Farhad Noory has lived in a migrant camp in Belgrade with his parents and two younger brothers for eight months, during which time his paintings of famous people have made him a local media star.

On Wednesday he and his family were invited to meet President Aleksandar Vucic, who offered them citizenship and the promise of a job for Noory's father.

"We would be honoured if you accepted," Vucic told the boy and his relatives.

About 4,500 migrants are staying in 18 state-run camps in Serbia after arriving in the huge wave of travellers from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

They mostly intended to start new lives in western Europe but got stuck in Serbia after the so-called "Balkan route" was shut down in 2016.

Rados Djurovic at the Asylum Protection Centre, a Serbian NGO working with migrants, welcomed the president's offer but said there was a pressing need to fix the country's asylum process.

Applicants "wait a very long time and in many cases do not obtain asylum," Djurovic said.

"This system must urgently be put into working order."

Noory held his first art exhibition last week in Belgrade, raising money for a Serbian child's post-cancer therapy.

The youngster said then that he would like to go to Switzerland to study painting and languages, but Vucic said he would "fight to convince" him to stay in Serbia.