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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Albania


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Albania

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Assist refugees, both newly arrived and longer-term, by providing shelter and emergency assistance (food and domestic items), identifying durable solutions for those who cannot repatriate and facilitating the voluntary repatriation of refugees to their former homes in neighbouring Kosovo when conditions permit.

UNHCR Tirana will also provide food, accommodation, medical treatment and legal assistance to an estimated 50 non-Kosovar refugee/asylum-seekers, mainly from the Middle East and Asia, while they await durable solutions.

Who we help

Albania is expected to host approximately 25,000 refugees in 1999, with new arrivals expected during the year. New arrivals may include Kosovo asylum-seekers deported back to Albania from third countries. In view of the constant movement of refugees in the country, it is necessary to carry out a complete registration of the refugee population. The latest figures show some 4,000 in the north (Tropoje district), 2,600 in Shkodra and the rest in central Albania (Durres, Tirana), giving an estimated total of 25,000.

Our requirements

US$ 10,057,321

Our offices

Tirana, Kukes, Shkodra.

Our partners

The Government Office for Refugees, Ministry for Interior, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Humanitarian Cargo Carrier (HCC), Caritas Albania, The Albanian Red Cross (ARC), The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).


The latest refugee influx in Albania began in June 1998 when ethnic Albanians, fleeing fighting in Kosovo between forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Liberation Army, began entering the country. By October 1998, UNHCR estimated that some 25,000 refugees from Kosovo had arrived. The refugee influx, as of mid-October, had decreased somewhat, although an average of thirty persons per day were still making the difficult mountain crossing on foot. Reports received from newly arriving refugees suggest that there are still many internally displaced persons sheltered in forests on the Kosovo/Albanian border. Most refugees arrive exhausted and with little or no personal belongings. A countrywide registration exercise by the Albanian Government's Office for Refugees will begin shortly and should result in more precise figures.

Security Problems

The refugee environment in Albania has changed dramatically since the influx began. The large number of refugees remaining in the north strained both the infrastructure and economy of Tropoje District. An increase of armed robberies, car thefts at gunpoint and fighting between local family clans, combined with a notorious Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) presence, seriously hampered emergency assistance efforts. Security there remains elusive; and the plight of refugees is further exacerbated by the fact that many host families ask refugees to pay rent in cash or in kind, which many refugees cannot afford to do for long.

The operational environment for humanitarian agencies in northern Albania is extremely tense. Despite numerous complaints from United Nations organizations and other humanitarian agencies, a lack of improvement in the security situation has resulted in the withdrawal of most international agencies from the north. UNHCR relocated its satellite field office to Shkodra following the expulsion in September 1998 of 4,000 Kosovo refugees from Montenegro. Largely because of the security situation there are only two international agencies operating in the Tropoje/Bajram Curri area. The European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continue to monitor the border area. The NGO community began leaving the north in mid-July; the Albanian Encouragement Project (AEP, a local NGO), which left at the end of August, was the last to leave. UNHCR and WFP remained in Bajram Curri until early October. UNHCR also has a small satellite office in Kukes town in the north-east of the country. The area around Kukes hosts approximately 1,000 refugees and is receiving around 20 new arrivals per day. Also present in the Kukes district are the OSCE and several UNHCR implementing partners. International and local organizations which moved from the north, continue to operate in the central and southern areas of the country.


Shelter in Collective Centres

UNHCR will provide medium-term shelter for up to 10,000 refugees in collective centres. It is anticipated that the refugees will continue to face accommodation difficulties, particularly in the areas around Durres and Tirana in the south. A key component of the assistance programme will therefore be finding temporary shelter for refugees in Albania while durable solutions are sought. The objective is to provide temporary shelter for up to 10,000 vulnerable refugees in some form of collective accommodation. A large number of small collective accommodations now used by UNHCR are privately owned and international funding must be used to pay rents. Many refugees who made their own accommodation arrangements are now facing eviction, as they can no longer pay rent for private dwellings. Even if a political settlement is reached in Kosovo, it is assumed that many refugees will not return in the short term, especially because many no longer have homes to which to return. It is possible that many refugees, will still see Albania as the preferred temporary solution and join relatives there rather than return to destroyed villages during the winter.

Through the Government, UNHCR will seek appropriate sites for refugee accommodation. Shelter projects will involve rehabilitating and furnishing existing buildings. Once repair is completed, through NGO partners, the management of the centres will be organized. UNHCR will work with the appropriate Ministries to ensure that refugees have access to existing health and education services. Buildings rehabilitated for refugees will benefit the local population, as well, once the refugees are able to return to their homes.

Emergency Assistance

UNHCR will ensure that adequate emergency humanitarian assistance is provided for up to 25,000 refugees, plus perhaps another 5,000 refugees during the first six months of 1999. The maintenance of a food-aid pipeline is of critical importance to ensuring that the nutritional requirements of the Kosovo refugees are met. WFP will provide a basic food ration for 15,000 refugees and IFRC will meet the needs of the remaining caseload. UNHCR, through its implementing partners, will supply many of the supplementary food items complementing the WFP food basket to assist approximately 12,000 refugees in central/south Albania, and 3,000 refugees in the north of the country. The Albanian Red Cross/IFRC will assist the remainder both in the north and south. Household items, such as blankets, mattresses, soap, detergent, hygienic kits and medical assistance, are similarly distributed throughout the country. (UNHCR provides material items and WHO/UNICEF provide the medical care.) The "host" accommodation in Albania usually consists of an empty room with virtually no amenities. Consequently, assistance is provided to almost all refugees in Albania, both to those living in host families and collective centres.

Basic Services in Refugee Hosting Areas

UNHCR will assist host families and communities by reinforcing basic services in refugee-hosting areas. The crisis created by the arrival of significant numbers of refugees into Albanian territory has increased the vulnerability of Albanian families in areas already suffering economic and social difficulties. The strengthening of basic services for women and children in regions with high concentrations of refugees is of major concern. Activities will benefit both local and Kosovo populations and would help ease tensions among the populations.


UNHCR will strengthen the Albanian Government and NGOs by assisting in the promulgation of asylum legislation and procedures. A mass-information campaign has been designed to help stabilize the population and provide useful information to potential returnees.


If refugees are able to return to their former homes in the spring/summer of 1999, UNHCR will help them by providing transport and logistics. Buses and trucks will be made available to transport personal belongings; and UNHCR will provide up-to-date information about the prevailing conditions in the former home areas, how to return and whom to contact upon return.

Following the assassination of a member of the opposition in September, civil unrest led to the looting of public and private properties. The UNHCR warehouse in Tirana, and similar stores belonging to other aid agencies, were looted. The new Government, has pledged to improve the security situation within Albania and enable humanitarian agencies to operate in a safer environment.

Protection and Solutions

No incidents of harassment, denial of entry or refoulement were reported by any source from any entry point into Albania. Shelter and counselling remained the first priority. The refugee population consists mostly of women, children and elderly, with many female heads-of-households. Many unaccompanied minors and elderly refugees report having had to work for the KLA as porters, carrying arms and food or cooking food for the soldiers. KLA soldiers who accompanied refugees were separated from the refugees. Young men were sent by families from Kosovo to Albania to avoid being "rounded-up" by the Yugoslav army. The refugees reported atrocities committed against civilians prior to flight. In Albania, women were sexually abused.

The priority for the Government Office of Refugees is to conduct an intensive registration exercise. Refugees must have a legal identity document to receive UNHCR/NGOs assistance. So far, approximately 7,000 refugees in Tropoje district and 2,600 in Shkodra district have been registered out of the 25,000 refugees estimated to be living in Albania. There is also a need to address the continuous in-country displacement of refugees by providing adequate temporary shelters.

Women and children

Targeting groups with special needs, such as women, children and elderly, UNHCR will ensure the physical and emotional well-being of refugees. Community-service activities will also be available to women in the host families. Through its partners, UNHCR will develop an outreach programme to identify needs and coordinate responses, including educational support, specialist assistance to unaccompanied minors, supplementary feeding, conflict resolution and recreational and cultural activities. Special emphasis will be placed on integrating refugee children into existing Albanian school programmes and helping them make up for time and education lost during conflict. The outreach programme for women will provide opportunities for group training to identify and cover special needs. Women-specific issues, such as health care and culturally and ethically sensitive reproductive health and community involvement, will be identified and addressed by the women themselves through the organization of women's groups or committees. Identified victims of sexual or domestic violence will be referred to mental health services organized within the community. The outreach services will be extended to the elderly, disabled and extremely vulnerable cases.


Since the influx began, UNHCR has organized regular meetings throughout the regions with the relevant Government Ministries, NGOs, and international agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, ICRC, WFP and UNDP. Such meetings ensure the smooth coordination of assistance and information-sharing between all relevant parties.

Budget US$

ActivitiesGeneral ProgrammesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support1,700,000
Water Supply100,000
Shelter/Other Infrastructures49,7692,300,000
Community Services400,000
Legal Assistance/Protection123,427100,000
Agency Operational Support6,931750,000
Programme Delivery Costs*348,0001,266,744
Administrative Support33,700231,277
TOTAL GP + SP10,057,321

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.