Indu Mohandas, UNHCR Representative to Montenegro
Interview in daily Vijesti
6 June 2013
Montenegro has successfully submitted the proposals for housing projects within the Sarajevo process for permanent housing for refugees, with the hope that the construction will start this year, said for the "Vijesti" UNHCR representative in our country Indu Mohandas. She explained that the UNHCR is overseeing the implementation of the Regional Housing Program, which is a significant component of the Sarajevo Process.
"Through this program, Montenegro, together with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia commits to provide housing for the most vulnerable refugee families, as well as the conditions for social integration," explains Mohandas.
Based on government data, during the re-registration in 2009, some 16,500 refugees from the former Yugoslavia have confirmed their stay in Montenegro. On the other hand, by the end of last year, around 6,100 people successfully attained the status of a foreigner.
Mohandas points out that the permanent solution for the majority of those who are here for almost 20 years and consider our country their home, is in Montenegro. Therefore, she emphasizes, refugees who wish to, need to apply for the status of foreigner as soon as the deadline is extended.
"We went with the Government on information campaigns to emphasize the importance of meeting the deadline for legal residence. However, the main difficulty which vulnerable families face is the lack of the necessary documents to apply for the status of foreigners ", said Mohandas.
Obtaining these documents is complicated by the fact that families would have to travel to a neighboring country to obtain the required certificates, which significantly raises the expenses.
What, according to her, complicates the situation further is the fact that 548 people lost their documents issued in Montenegro, while 119 people have lost documents issued in their country of origin when the fire struck the Konik camp, in July last year.
"Because of this, their application for the status of foreigner are at a standstill. We are currently in discussions with our partners in government and legal centers in order to overcome this problem, "she revealed.
Mohandas said that the Government in 2009, through amendments the Law on Foreigners, created a mechanism by which the refugees from the territory of the former Yugoslavia have preferential, although difficult, access to the status of foreigner with permanent residence and citizenship. This status is intended to provide access to the range of rights enjoyed by the citizens of Montenegro, except the right to vote.
According to her, during this process, about 9,500 people applied for the status of foreigner.
"Even the deadline for submitting applications was 31 December 2012, we are expecting it to be extended and the UNHCR is increasing its efforts to help these people to collect the necessary documents and apply as soon as that happens, "said Mohandas.
Mohandas said that UNHCR assists with documentation and transportation for those who wish to return to their country of origin. She announced that in the following period focus will be on asylum and support to the Government in improving the reception capacities, interviewing techniques and local integration. In addition, the protection of people who do not have citizenship documents and prevention of such situations will be an important focus of the organization. Mohandas hopes to be able to contribute to improving the lives of the people they work with, and that will enable them to live as equal citizens "in this beautiful country."