UNHCR has been present in South-Eastern Europe since the early 1990s, with a small presence in Belgrade from 1976.
At the start of the conflicts in the Balkans in 1991 the U.N. Secretary-General in 1991 had designated UNHCR to be the lead humanitarian agency during the developing emergency. UNHCR began the most wide-ranging and complex operation in its history, spearheading a program to care for 3.5 million civilians region-wide.
Since 1991, as a result of the wars in the successor states of former Yugoslavia, between 3.7 and 4 million people were displaced or became refugees within former Yugoslavia, of whom 2.2 million in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Some 600,000 to 800,000 people found refuge in different European countries, while 10,000 to 15,000 sought asylum overseas.
Under the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNHCR was again asked to spearhead efforts to help millions of people uprooted by the fighting to return to their homes. UNHCR, as the lead agency, was entrusted “with the role of coordinating among all agencies assisting with the repatriation” and developing “a plan that will allow for an early, peaceful, orderly and phased return of refugees and displaced persons.
According to government figures (June 2015), there are some 49,000 refugees and 305,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region, including 6,783 refugees.
The Regional Representation for South Eastern Europe (RR SEE) was established on 1 January 2015, based in Sarajevo. Its role is to lead and oversee a joint regional operation for South Eastern Europe covering Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo (S/RES/1244(1999)), Montenegro and Serbia. In addition to the Regional Representation for South Eastern Europe, UNHCR has offices in Sarajevo (BiH country office), Belgrade, Priština, Podgorica, Skopje and Tirana.
The role of the Regional Representation for South Eastern Europe is to coordinate UNHCR activities with the aim of supporting countries in the region to work together more closely on
◊ solutions to protracted conflict-related displacements of the 1990’s,
◊ improved capacity of asylum systems in all countries to provide protection and solutions to asylum-seekers and persons in need of international protection in mixed migration flows, and
◊ delivery of essential documents to all known persons at risk of statelessness and establishment of mechanisms enabling government and civil society actors to detect and prevent recurrence of new cases.
In addition to its advisory and advocacy work, the RR SEE oversees regional programmes and operations, and conducts administrative and financial oversight for the country offices it is responsible for.
In South Eastern Europe, UNHCR cares for an increasing number of refugees and asylum-seekers arriving in the region, and helps the governments to develop fair and effective asylum systems.
People of concern to the UNHCR Regional Office for South-Eastern Europe also include some 370,000 persons displaced during the armed conflicts in the region in the 1990s, as well as for some 4,600 people at risk of statelessness throughout the area.
UNHCR presence in the region
Staff: 102 National Staff; 24 International Staff
Offices: 6 Country Office in Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje and Tirana, and; 3 Field Offices in Gjirokastra in Albania , Gevgelija in the former Yug. Rep. of Macedonia and Presevo in Serbia