|International Refugees Day - 20 June|
Refugees and displaced persons waiting to go back home
Seven years after the Kosovo crisis and five years after the conflict in the country, Macedonia is still facing the problem of internally displaced people and refugees. There are still over 2.000 people in the country that have not returned to their homes, shocked by the war that forced them to leave their houses and look for new, safe places to live in. Their problems continue further due to the uncertainty with solving the Kosovo status for ones, and for other the fear and uncertainty to continue living with their neighbors and to forgive for the past. This year, the non-governmental organizations have pointed out their problems and they used 20th June, the International Refugees Day as an occasion.
How do internally displaced people live?
It has been five years since four families from Aracinovo situated in the First Children’s Embassy in the world “Medjasi” came here for the first time. Out of 16 people, there are eight children. In the past five years three babies were born here and they celebrate their birthdays there. The older ones still ask them about their homes and remember them and the younger ones have got used to the conditions in the Embassy and would not like to change their home again.
Beti Gorgevik from Aracinovo lives in one of the Embassy’s rooms, together with her husband and their daughters. Since October last year they have not been registered as displaced people and therefore they do not receive any help by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. It was explained to them that they were deregistered under assumption that they have sold their house, although Beti says it is not true. As a result of the good will of the first people from the Embassy, they will stay here until September, until they finish their preparations related to the building of the new house in the Skopje settlement Belimbegovo. Beti says that all building materials were provided by the European Agency for Reconstruction, but they have been stolen. In spite of the fact they used to go to check the house, they do not go there anymore, as someone is constantly damaging it or stealing things from it.
“We left Aracinovo on 8th June. We don’t want to go back because we don’t feel safe there, mostly for the children. When the conflict ended, we didn’t go back due to the explosions in Aracinovo and now the local population wants us to sell the house”, says Beti. “For me Aracinovo is a closed book and I don’t want to remember it”, she says.
She, as her neighbors in the Embassy, gets by at all cost, since they are not on the list of displaced people. Unlike her husband, Beti does not work. Her daughters go to the nearest school, the primary school “Ljuben Lape”. They do not remember much about the conflict. “I sometimes tell them about it. The younger one doesn’t know, but the older one remembers something”, says Beti.
Displaced people complain about the state’s behavior
The number of internally displaced people in Macedonia from the crisis region in Kumanovo, Tetovo and Skopje is decreasing year by year. From over 30.000 displaced people registered in 2001, today this number is reduced to 726. In 2002 the number of displaced people was over 8.000, in 2003 there were 3.177 registered people and in 2004 there were 2.372 internally displaced people, situated in collective centers and private accommodation. In 2001 UNHCR announced that about 70.000 people from the country went to Kosovo, and 6.000 people to Serbia. It is not known how many of them came back.
In the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy there are 726 internally displaced registered people, out of which 501 situated in collective centers and 225 in private houses.
However, in spite of the reduction of the number of internally displaced people, those remaining in the collective centers are not satisfied with the way they are treated by the state. They complain about the country’s ignorant behavior due to the violent deregistration in the collective homes, as well as the insufficient compensation they received for the houses, thus starting a lawsuit. The displaced people have announced they are prepared to address the European Court for Human Rights about their problem. According to them, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy has made an incorrect step for removing them from the list of displaced people under excuse that they have sold their houses, although they say it is not true. The displaced are not satisfied with the way the evaluations were made of the damaged houses.
What is the condition with the refugees?
From over 100 thousand refugees that during the Kosovo crisis came to our country, 2.032 are officially registered. Most of them are Roma, Ashkenazim and Egyptians, situated in private houses. UNHCR still takes care of them in cooperation with the Macedonian authorities. In UNHCR they are unsatisfied with the state’s behavior and they say that the state should care for these people.
“The situation is not dramatically changed. The number of refugees from Kosovo is about 2.000, with exception of a refugee from Afghanistan. All refugees are from Kosovo, most of them are Roma, Ashkenazim and Egyptians. They are privately accommodated in Suto Orizari, Tetovo and Kumanovo”, says the UNHCR representative in our country, Ketrin Walker. She is convinced that the future of Kosovo refugees will brighten towards the end of the year when it is expected the Kosovo status to be solved. “Kosovo status can enable the refugees to go back home more quickly. During 2005 even 120 of them returned to their homes and a small number of them returned to Serbia, too. 150 have returned to Kosovo for the last two years”, explains Walker.
She says that UNHCR organizes occasional visits for the refugees, thus helping them to get over the memories in order to ease their returning home. “We take the refugees to their places in Kosovo, we help them talk to the people there, to see the situation and not to rely on rumors only. Some of them returned this way, other returned after their houses had been renovated”, she says.
According to her, 28 refugees so far have been given the status of recognized refugees and 1.230 have been registered as persons under humanitarian protection. She says that a special problem is that until the Law on Asylum was passed, the Kosovo refugees were registered as persons under humanitarian protection and their status was constantly revised by the Government. Now, with the new law, they are registered as persons under humanitarian protection, but only for a limited period of 12 months.
“Our help cannot last forever. Every year we expect the Government to take over the responsibilities and we to reduce our help”, says the UNHCR representative.
Their help consists of financial aid for leasehold and current expenses, 2.000 denars for food per adult, 1.500 for a juvenile. The refugees receive three packages for hygiene per year and in winter they are also given money for heating.
About 50 million people in the world are victims of forcible displacement
About 50 million people in the world are victims of forcible displacement and 14 million are “refugees” in a conventional sense of the word - people who have left their home or their country in order to run away from expel, armed conflict or violence, reminded with its announcement the First Children’s Embassy in the world “Medjashi”, reminding of the International Refugee Day - 20th June. They point out that more than a half of the official figures refer to children and to this number we can add the number of displaced people who do not receive any form of international help.
“Almost two thirds of the refugees in the world are from the Middle East or Africa. Half of the refugees come from three regions: Palestine, Afghanistan or Iraq. Among the ten leading regions of refugees are Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Serbia and Montenegro, Angola, Croatia and Eritrea”, they point out in “Medjashi”.
In the announcement they state that in the First Children’s Embassy in the world “Medjashi” there are still 16 internally displaced people from Aracinovo sheltered. Out of them, they add in the Embassy, no family wants to return to the place they were expelled from.