UNHCR through its partner organizations and local NGOs continues to ensure direct assistance to asylum seekers in terms of legal counselling and representation as well as psychosocial assistance with a particular focus to vulnerable persons such as SGBV survivors, children and women. Through Age, Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming activities, joint identification of the protection risks and solutions are enabling prompt response at individual and institutional level. Persons under subsidiary protection are efficiently provided documentation and enjoy free access to services. However, taking into consideration the difficult socio-economic conditions in Kosovo, opportunities for local integration and self-sufficiency of refugees or persons with subsidiary protection are scarce.
Throughout the years partnership with responsible authorities has been strengthened including with international organisations, civil society, academia, etc. In coordination with United Nations agencies in Kosovo and other organisation, UNHCR contributed to development of and validation of Inter-Agency contingency plan as well as contributed in developing and validating authorities’ contingency plan.
Since 2008, in cooperation with its legal partner organisation and Ministry of Internal Affairs and with an aim of capacity building of authorities, around 100 sessions were held with the municipal civil status officials, central authorities, centres for social welfare and judges aiming to unify practices, to advocate for unified implementation of the legislation and higher level of coordination and cooperation amongst responsible authorities. In addition, three study tours were organized to European Countries with an aim to obtain the best practices in statelessness determination procedures. UNHCR’s advocacy with Civil Registration Agency resulted in issuance of a circular waiving fees for late birth registration of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities’. UNHCR continues to play an important role in community outreach and awareness activities in terms of importance of birth registration through a constant engagement of 10 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community advocates.
As a result of the 2015 identification survey findings and UNHCR advocacy, the Civil Registration Agency established the Working Group on creation of mechanism with an aim to provide systematic solutions to all undocumented persons in line with UNHCR Global Campaign to End Statelessness 2014-2024. The purpose of the action plan is to address comprehensive issues of birth registration and specific issues causing the delays in birth registrations through specific activities which will be implemented through well planned and targeted activities. Furthermore it aims to reduce the bureaucratic requirements, to reduce the length of the review of the individual cases and lift to the maximum possible, the burden of evidentiary documentation submission by affected individuals.
In 2017, UNHCR and UNICEF developed a Joint Strategy for Addressing Childhood Statelessness, with the aim to, in close collaboration with relevant authorities, and other stakeholders, eradicate the risk of statelessness among Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children and to ensure their full access to the documents and rights.
UNHCR in Pristina and Podgorica jointly supported provision of documentation to 1,080 displaced persons in Montenegro by Kosovo authorities through mobile teams that enabled displaced persons to regularise their stay in Montenegro, benefit housing and attain durable solution.
Until 2018, the entire process of durable solutions for Kosovo displaced population relied on 2006 UNMIK’s/PISG Revised Manual for Sustainable Return and the Guidelines for Implementation of Support to Return developed by Ministry for Communities and Returns (MCR) in 2012 dedicated mainly on housing (re)construction assistance. UNHCR advocated and provided the bases ensuring the right on access to return assistance for Displaced Persons and Internally Displaced Persons as well as setting the criteria for assistance through a normative act adopted in 2018. UNHCR focused on establishment of the normative framework, provided individual assistance, legal aid, protection monitoring and capacity building.
Moreover, UNHCR advocated for localisation of the durable solutions/return process in view of establishing a responsible authority at local level that would directly work, respond to the needs of returnees and displaced population in the field. The advocacy resulted with establishment of Municipal Offices for Communities and Return (MOCR). Respective regulation on MOCRs 02/2010 was approved and the capacity building was fully supported by UNHCR. The operationalization of MOCRs enabled a proper structure to lead the return process at local level starting from applications for return assistance, processing of applications and referrals for approval at central level.
UNHCR has recorded all the voluntary returnees as of 2000. In 2005 a proper database (access) was established and it remains the only source of data on returns, needs of returnees and potential protection concerns, a total of 27,786 returnees registered up to January 2018.
In 2009, UNHCR in coordination with the offices in the region and authorities of respective countries established a database on Intention to Return, enabling displaced persons to apply for return assistance from the place of displacement. The applications were and continue to be channelized through UNHCR to the local and central authorities. Approximately 10,000 displaced persons applied for return assistance since 2009. In 2016, UNHCR conducted a needs assessment of the displaced persons registered for assisted return since 2009. Needs Assessment findings show that around 4,000 displaced persons are waiting for support and reconfirmed their willingness to return, the process of assessments is still continuing. The findings from the Needs Assessment were used from different donors/ actors for planning the projects and also for feeding the Municipal Action Plans on return. It is expected that Ministry of Communities and Returns establishes its case management database in 2018.
Following the Skopje conference held on 24 November 2014 as part of the Inter-Institutional Initiative on Durable Solutions for Displaced Persons from Kosovo, the participating institutions from Pristina, Podgorica, Skopje and Belgrade, expressed their commitment to regional co-operation to support displaced persons from Kosovo to secure durable solutions, including the options of voluntary return and integration in place of displacement, on the basis of free and informed decision-making. The Action Points on Property Rights; Security, Dialogue and Reintegration; Personal Documentation; Data Management and Solutions Planning were endorsed and concrete steps are being made towards their implementation, in particular the establishment of the Implementation Working Group for Action Points for all five thematic groups at Kosovo level with participation of all focal points from the relevant ministries/institutions.
UNHCR provided operational support and different reintegration packages, i.e. small shelter repair assistance, food and non-food assistance to spontaneous returnees since 1999. During the period 2013-2015, UNHCR assisted 61 families/ 327 vulnerable Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian returnees with housing construction and humanitarian package with EU IPA funds dedicated for returns from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro. UNHCR’s advocacy ensured land allocation in 4 municipalities for all property less returnees from this group. In 2016 and 2017 UNHCR supported the return of 96 families/335 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian displaced persons from Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with a one year assistance package. As a result, majority of the displaced persons in Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were able to attain durable solutions.
There is no accurate number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kosovo. UNHCR estimation is that there are still some 16,406 IDPs in Kosovo. In 2015, with the initiative of UNHCR and in coordination with Kosovo authorities, Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, Danish Refugee Council and Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) a sample based Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) profiling exercise was conducted for the first time in Kosovo. The report from the IDPs profiling reflects the needs of the IDPs to achieve durable solutions.
UNHCR’s advocacy and close coordination with authorities, resulted in housing solutions for displaced persons residing in collective centres in Shterpce/Strpce where the durable solution IPA project is expected to finalize in 2018. UNHCR continues with advocacy with authorities, donors and international organisations in prioritisation of vulnerable displaced persons still residing in 23 remaining TCSs, mainly in northern Kosovo and Pristina region.