Prishtina/ Pristina, 23 November 2018 (UNHCR) – Avni a 38-year-old, seems to be very happy. “I have my own house, a place where I can stay with my family”, he told UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
Avni started a new life in his new house in Fushë Kosovë (Kosovo Polje). There is still no garden in front of his house but he hopes to have a small one soon, as well as a constructed fence.
His house was built through the EU Return and Reintegration in Kosovo project phase V, that began in late 2017. This project was co-funded by the Ministry of Communities and Returns and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The project is to be completed in 42 months and aims at sustainable return and reintegration of up to 400 displaced families in the region.
UNHCR supports the project as a part of the overall monitoring activities for voluntary return to Kosovo.
Displaced persons waiting for durable solutions
“We were displaced for many years, living in poverty”, Avni said. Avni, whom identifies as a Kosovo Egyptian, left his home together with his family after the 1999 Conflict in Kosovo. Meanwhile, he married and now is a father of three children.
The family, while displaced, received shelter at several locations, mainly in settlements with poor living conditions.
“I am very satisfied with my house”, said Avni. “We have no safety concern”, he added. He looked very optimistic while he was talking. From his smile, it was obvious that he was happy having benefited from the housing project, feeling secure in the realization of a permanent home.
There are still displaced persons originating from Kosovo and living in Montenegro, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, within Kosovo and in Serbia. These individuals have specific displacement related needs.
Some of the displaced families reside in collective shelters under very harsh living conditions.
The UNHCR’s report on ‘Displaced Persons from Kosovo in the Region’ (2017) – focused on the re – assessment of the interest to return and stipulates that the main concern for the displaced persons remains housing and employment.
According to the report, 3,236 Kosovo Serbs and 576 Kosovo Roma expressed their interest to voluntary return from Serbia, and 231 from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro.
The UNHCR Chief of Mission in Kosovo, Mr. Erol Arduç, said that “UNHCR invites the authorities and the donors to consider further possibilities to support these families to rebuild their lives and ensure sustainability of their return and re-integration.”
New start for returnees
There are 28,016 individuals that have returned in Kosovo voluntarily since 2000.
So far, in 2018, 64 families with 232 family members have returned: 35 families returned from Serbia, and 29 families were displaced within Kosovo.
The number of people voluntary returning this year was the lowest number ever since the beginning of the return process in 2000.
Nowadays, the focus is mainly on the local authorities to take responsibility towards return, as well as the call for an additional support by the international community.
Avni is certain that he will be able to make his living and care for his family. “I can do many things and work in many areas as I have different skills”, he said.
He worked mainly in construction sector and is willing to continue with this. He already started to do some work.
We wish Avni and his family all the best.
Shpend Halili, Communications at UNHCR