A slideshow of archive photos illustrating distressing moments of the largest world emergencies and refugee influxes in Montenegro throughout the history, was in the very the core of this year’s observance of the World Refugee Day and the 60th Anniversary of the Refugee Convention, organized by the UNHCR Montenegro.
Photo exhibition was launched in Delta shopping mall in Podgorica by the heads of UNHCR Montenegro and the European Delegation in Podgorica and representatives of Montenegrin Government.
In her opening speech, Ms. Brita Helleland, Representative of the UNHCR in Montenegro, referred to the consequences of the Europe’s most destructive war which had left millions of traumatized people homeless and displaced sixty years ago. “Realizing these vulnerable people needed special protection world leaders took action. Thousands were resettled to new countries – and the 1951 Refugee Convention was created. Today, this convention is still protecting some 43 million people that were forced to flee war or persecution”, said Ms. Helleland.
She also pointed out that legislative changes, adopted by the Government of Montenegro in 2009, have opened opportunities for ending the refugee plight of some 16,500 persons still living in Montenegro, 20 years after the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. “With the new status provisions, refugees should, in the coming years, obtain increased access to basic social rights and in particular to employment, which will enable them to eventually cater for the needs of their families. A lot remains to be done, but there is, eventually, a real hope for a better future“, concluded Ms. Helleland.
The Head of the European Delegation in Podgorica Leopold Maurer highlighted Montenegro’s human solidarity and compassion in the time of war and conflict, and reminded that it welcomed and cared for tens of thousands of refugees and displaced people from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo.
Hepointed that refugees’ legal status and access to rights still remains to be the major challenge. „Displaced and internally displaced people in Montenegro must be able to sustain themselves and live a decent life. Respect for human rights represents a key political criterion for countries wanting to join the EU“, stated Maurer and reminded that EU Commission is monitoring very closely the respect of human rights in Montenegro, including the rights of refugees, displaced and internally displaced persons. He praised Government’s renewed commitment to resolving these problems through the drafting of a new strategy to replace the 2009 Action Plan on IDPs, which will also include the sustainable strategy for the closure of Konik camp as requested in the key priorities. „We are very much looking forward to the presentation of this new strategy“, said Maurer.
The Director of Bureau for Care of Refugees, Željko Šofranac stressed the importance of raising awareness about the challenges refugees are facing with. “None of those people wanted such destiny. But they accepted new conditions of life. Montenegro is committed to help them gain better status”, said Šofranac and pointed that the actions in this regard are in full compliance with international standards and EU recommendations. „We expect that we will fully meet the seventh requirement from the EU benchmarks.“
The Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Nikola Dedeić explained that the Government of Montenegro is investing a lot of efforts to address complex challenges in the process of finding durable solutions for DPs and IDPs in Montenegro. “Montenegro has long tradition of solidarity towards displaced people, which was proven many times in last century. We must not forget that in one moment Montenegro was shelter for more than 130.000 refugees”, Dedeić stated and highlighted that Montenegro is committed to follow the obligations from the Action plan for implementation of the EU recommendations.
According to the latest UN findings, around 80 percent of the 15.4 million refugees in the world live in poor countries, where they face limited developing opportunities and chances to get citizenship.
In the Balkan region more than 73 thousand refugees live below the poverty line. It is estimated that durable solutions for them would require between 500 and 600 million Euros.