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Last family leaves camp for displaced in Kosovo

News Stories, 9 November 2007

© UNHCR/S.Halili
Ilja Gashi, a Kosovo Roma IDP, preparing belongings to leave the camp in Plemetina. This marks closure of the Plemetina Temporary Collective Centre that sheltered IDPs since 1999.

PRISTINA, Kosovo, November 8 (UNHCR) Workmen are levelling a collective shelter for displaced people near the Kosovo capital of Pristina after the last family was moved to a new home of their own in the same village.

The temporary collective centre in Plemetina was opened in 1999 to provide emergency accommodation to some 1,300 displaced people belonging to Kosovo's minorities. Its doors closed last week, when a happy Demir Gashi and his Roma family of five left with their belongings.

UNHCR transported them a few hundred metres down the road to their new apartment in Plemetina, which was built by Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning. Demir said he was delighted to leave the harsh living conditions in the collective centre and move into a home of his own.

The government was able to close the collective centre after assisting the centre's IDPs to either return to their homes, move into new homes or find places in social housing buildings with the help of the UN refugee agency. Giuseppe Lococo, head of UNHCR's Pristina office, thanked all those involved in finding durable solutions, including donors.

The Kosovo authorities-assisted by UNHCR and others had worked to find housing solutions for the remaining residents of Plemetina Camp. Two social housing projects were completed in Plemetina and one in Magura, while the government built nine houses in Plemetina on land bought by IDP beneficiaries.

UNHCR had helped the residents of Plemetina's collective centre by providing legal counselling, carrying out individual case assessments and helping organize distributions of food and non-food items. It has also helped those moving out of the centre and into new homes.

Following a crackdown by the Serbian authorities in 1999, more than 900,000 ethnic Albanians were forced to flee Kosovo, only to return a few months later in the wake of a major military intervention by NATO. The exodus of some 200,000 minority Serbs, Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians and other minorities from Kosovo began within days and continued over the next few months.

Although more than 17,000 minority displaced people have returned to their homes, there are still more than 21,000 internally displaced persons in Kosovo in need of durable solutions.

By Shpend Halili in Pristina, Kosovo

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Refugee Women

Women and girls make up about 50 percent of the world's refugee population, and they are clearly the most vulnerable. At the same time, it is the women who carry out the crucial tasks in refugee camps – caring for their children, participating in self-development projects, and keeping their uprooted families together.

To honour them and to draw attention to their plight, the High Commissioner for Refugees decided to dedicate World Refugee Day on June 20, 2002, to women refugees.

The photographs in this gallery show some of the many roles uprooted women play around the world. They vividly portray a wide range of emotions, from the determination of Macedonian mothers taking their children home from Kosovo and the hope of Sierra Leonean girls in a Guinean camp, to the tears of joy from two reunited sisters. Most importantly, they bring to life the tremendous human dignity and courage of women refugees even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Refugee Women

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

France is one of the main destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe, with some 55,000 new asylum applications in 2012. As a result of the growing number of applicants, many French cities are facing an acute shortage of accommodation for asylum-seekers.

The government is trying to address the problem and, in February 2013, announced the creation of 4,000 additional places in state-run reception centres for asylum-seekers. But many asylum-seekers are still forced to sleep rough or to occupy empty buildings. One such building, dubbed the "Refugee Hotel" by its transient population, lies on the outskirts of the eastern city of Dijon. It illustrates the critical accommodation situation.

The former meat-packing plant is home to about 100 asylum-seekers, mostly from Chad, Mali and Somalia, but also from Georgia, Kosovo and other Eastern European countries. Most are single men, but there are also two families.

In this dank, rat-infested empty building, the pipes leak and the electricity supply is sporadic. There is only one lavatory, two taps with running water, no bathing facilities and no kitchen. The asylum-seekers sleep in the former cold-storage rooms. The authorities have tried to close the squat several times. These images, taken by British photographer Jason Tanner, show the desperate state of the building and depict the people who call it home.

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003