UNHCR Advocates Durable Solutions for the returnees in the need of housing
Fushë Kosovë (Kosovo Polje), 14 August 2017 – Bashkim was servicing a TV set when we visited him on a sunny day in his house in Plemetin. He smiled when we entered his shop showing his appreciation for our visit.
During the conflict in Kosovo in 1999 Bashkim left home together with his family members, parents, sisters and brothers. “We were afraid to stay at home because of the conflict and we became refugees,” said the 49-year-old Kosovo Roma.
Bashkim came back from Skopje, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, after spending there many years. When he came back it was snowing, it was early January this year but he had everything needed to start his life from the beginning.
Bashkim benefited housing from the project funded by the European Union and implemented by IOM in Kosovo, the EU-Return and Reintegration Kosovo Programme.
He was happy for the new house but he was a bit afraid when he came back because he was unemployed. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency asked him how the organization could support him. He told us that he needs tools to be able to service electronic equipment, something that he did while staying as a displaced person in Skopje.
UNHCR was able to provide him tools needed and also a shop where he keeps tools and electronic equipment. “I am trying to continue my job as I worked in Skopje. This helps me to earn for living for me and my family,” Bashkim told UNHCR.
We learned from him that he did this job in a centre of Skopje and the incomes were good. “Here, I earn less because the place is smaller but I am satisfied as I get enough for living,” he said.
Bashkim lives with his wife and two children. His daughter is 17 and the boy is 14 year old.
Many displaced persons from Kosovo still seeking durable solutions
UNHCR estimates that there are some 580 displaced persons in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and 850 in Montenegro originating from Kosovo still in need of permanent solutions.
Bashkim was lucky to get housing but there are other voluntary returnees from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro that have to wait until they are included in a donor funded housing program.
There are less housing projects for voluntary returnees in Kosovo. UNHCR is trying to support those returnees by providing them monthly cash assistance for payment of accommodation after they returned to Kosovo. The cash assistance is for a period of twelve months.
Through this return package, UNHCR also provides food and non-food assistance and house appliances for families that return. This year, UNHCR assisted 12 families with 41 family members from Montenegro and 25 families with 86 family members from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Chief of the UNHCR Mission in Kosovo, N L Narasimha Rao, said: “UNHCR supports returnees by advocating to include them into the existing housing projects.” While some of the returnees managed to benefit, many other are not lucky. Mr. Rao said that “there is still need to advocate for more funds for reintegration program to support the returnees.”
The returnee families need permanent employment
Bashkim’s family is one of 26 families with 90 family members that have returned this year from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Kosovo. Most of them came from the settlement Suto Orizari near Skopje, and 9 families with 22 family members returned from Montenegro.
There were also 44 families with 86 family members who have returned from Serbia and 13 families with 54 family members returned from displacement within Kosovo. In total, since 2002 until now some 27,547 individuals have returned voluntarily to Kosovo from within the region.
Bashkim seems happy because he likes his job. He is becoming familiar with the surrounding and he is seeking ways how to develop his business. Nearby, there are some 20 families who returned last two years to Plemetina, Obiliq (Obilic) municipality from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There are also returnees from Montenegro. UNHCR supported them with income generation projects to give them a possibility to earn for living.
The returnee families need permanent employment to enable them to live decently.
“I started to like the place, my new home, and my family is happy here as well. We hope for better times,” said Bashkim, while we were ready to leave his place.
Shpend Halili, Communications at UNHCR Kosovo