21 – 25 June 2021
Every year, on 20 June the world celebrates the strength and resilience of refugees, people who, due to war and persecution, have been stripped of everything but still carry on. By the end of 2020, conflict and persecution have forced more than 82 million people around the world to flee their homes and this World Refugee Day, UNHCR called on communities and governments across the world to include them – in healthcare, education and sport.
In Montenegro, UNHCR and the Ministry of Interior commemorated the World Refugee Day through a series of events taking place between 21 – 25 June 2021, celebrating the fortitude of refugees and reaffirming the commitment of both Montenegro and the international community to continue supporting the protection of those forced to flee.
On 21 June, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR and the Ministry of Interior, supported by the US embassy and the UN system in Montenegro, jointly marked the World Refugee Day, renewing the pledge for comprehensive inclusion of those forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution.
UNHCR Representative to Montenegro, Mr. Jean Yves Bouchardy, reminded that the number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights violations in 2020 rose to over 82 million people and that the need to support them has never been greater, including in Montenegro. He commended Montenegro’s commitment to its open-door policy since 1992 and highlighted the importance of UNHCR and donor support in building a strong asylum system, the resolution of legal status of ex-Yugoslav refugees and the prevention and eradication of statelessness in the country. Mr. Bouchardy expressed gratitude for the life-saving support from the European Union, provided through the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) that ensured access to healthcare, medical support and hygiene items during the peak of the pandemic.
“We at UNHCR commend Montenegro for having shown over the years a strong generosity and dedication to address the plight of people forced to flee, regardless of their ethnic and religious background or political opinion. Since 1992, with the generosity of donor community we have assisted more than 120,000 refugees in Montenegro. We are also grateful to the UN and the international community with whom we have also embarked on the collective journey of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, pledging that no one will be left behind,” said UNHCR Representative to Montenegro, Mr. Jean Yves Bouchardy.
The Minister of Interior of Montenegro, Mr. Sergej Sekulovic, reaffirmed the commitment of the Government of Montenegro to fulfill international pledges, particularly from the Global Refugee Forum and announced additional efforts in fulfilling the pledge to enlarge Montenegrin reception capacities. The Minister confirmed Montenegro’s unwavering resolution to foster comprehensive protection and inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers in Montenegro.
“This year’s World Refugee Day is dedicated to inclusion and health, and in that context, Montenegro is proud of its achievements. We are especially proud of the fact that, with the help of the Ministry of Health and UNHCR, we inoculate people in the Centre for Asylum Seekers, rendering Montenegro one of the few countries that vaccinated foreigners seeking international protection in the early stages of immunization”, said Minister of Interior of Montenegro, Mr. Sergej Sekulović.
When a family or an individual loses everything, a safe place to live is the first step to recovery. The UN Resident Coordinator in Montenegro, Mr. Peter Lundberg, reminded that for refugees a safe place to live is a key to restoring personal security, self-efficiency and dignity after the conflict. A safe place to live is not just a roof over one’s head – it is a comprehensive inclusion in a community and the ability to give back to those offering refuge.
“Inclusion, which is at the heart of this year’s World Refugee Day, is underpinned by the 2030 Agenda – a global development plan seeking to leave no one behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In a world facing the pandemic, the Agenda offers a universal and inclusive vision of a sustainable world that cannot be achieved without considering the rights and needs of refugees. Each day we learn that only by working together can we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic”, said UN Resident Coordinator in Montenegro, Mr. Peter Lundberg.
School does more than teach children math and language skills – it provides them a safe place to grow and learn basic life skills, such as cooperation, responsibility and respect. When all children can go to school, communities grow stronger. Out of 82.4 million people forced to flee their homes – 42% are boys and girls under the age of 18 and and many of them will remain refugees in the years to come. For them, access to education ensures they can build better future.
“All children, regardless of where they are from and why they have left their homes, have the same rights. On World Refugee Day, UNICEF calls on governments to provide child refugees with the same care, services, dignity and protection as all other children”, said UNICEF Representative to Montenegro. Mr. Juan Santander.
H.E. Ambassador of the United States of America to Montenegro, Ms. Judy Raising Reinke, reaffirmed the readiness of the U.S.A. to support UNHCR and the Government of Montenegro in achieving durable solutions, protection and inclusion of refugees in Montenegro and stressed the importance of marking this date as a sign of solidarity with the persons forced to flee their homes.
“Through inclusion and seeing one another as part of the same global community, we can collectively help empower refugees,” Ambassador Reinke said, adding that “our support extends to the recognition that when enabled to thrive, refugees contribute dutifully and meaningfully to all aspects of society.”
On 21 June, the Capital City of Podgorica illuminated the bridge Millennium and joined UNHCR in marking the World Refugee Day by showing solidarity with persons forced to flee from due to war or persecution. This is but one of the side-activities UNHCR has conducted in Montenegro to commemorate the World Refugee Day.
On 22 June, UNHCR Representative awarded the diplomas to 22 students at the Faculty of Law of the University of Montenegro for successfully completing the Legal Clinic on the Refugee Law. Mr. Bouchardy expressed gratitude to the Faculty of Law for the continuous cooperation since 2007 and stressed that over the years about 400 students have completed the Legal Clinic and learned about UNHCR’s mandate and the refugee law.
On 23 June, the visit of police cadets from the Policy Academy Danilovgrad to the Centre for Asylum Seekers in Spuz was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Academy. Students of the Police Academy had an opportunity to familiarize with the work of the Centre and learn about work with asylum seekers from the UNHCR and MoI staff members. The visit was very insightful for young police cadets, as they enriched their knowledge for future police engagement in this area.
On 25 June, asylum-seekers, UNHCR and Ministry of Interior staff were vaccinated against COVID-19 virus in the Centre for Asylum Seekers in Spuz. The vaccination was undertaken in line with the National Strategy for the Procurement, Distribution and Administration of COVID-19 Vaccines, which generously foresees access to vaccines for asylum seekers and refugees in Montenegro. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, asylum seekers and refugees have diligently adhered to the COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures, which largely contributed to a very low transmissibility of the virus in the reception centres and the communities where refugees reside.