Step closer to durable solution for internally displaced Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians from Peja, Kosovo

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Podgorica organized a two-day visit to the Municipality of Peja for representatives of 12 Roma and Egyptian families from camps Konik 1 and Konik 2, who are wiling to voluntarily return to that municipality, in order to allow them to familiarize themselves with the circumstances of the return and situation in that municipality.

Representatives of the local government in the municipality of Peja talked with 12-member group on various aspects of return. On that occasion, Roma and Egyptians, who voluntarily applied for the return to Peja, were presented with recent accomplishments of a complex process of organizing their return, the benefits of their decision to return to their place of origin, then challenges along the way as well as planned future activities and deadlines.

During the visit, representatives of 12 internally displaced Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian families visited the location where a building for returnees from Camp 1 in Konik should be built.

In an interview with a representative of UNHCR Montenegro, the Mayor of Peja Municipality Ali Berisha confirmed that the municipality designated land for the construction of apartments for the return of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians from Konik.

“It is the location where we can build a residential building with approximately 20-24 apartments, but there are plenty of land plots where we can expand the construction”, said Berisha. Once the location is designated, further activities are due – providing funds for the construction is at the first place.

“Funding is the only challenge for now, taking into account that Peja Municipality does not have big funds. We made the first step, i.e. allocated the land and hope that the Government of Montenegro and Government of Kosovo will jointly assist the municipality of Pec in providing funds for the return”, Berisha stated, emphasizing that the assistance of the international community is also necessary. He reiterated the determination of Peja Municipality to engage in providing documentation for persons who decide to return and for those who need personal documents for obtaining the new status in Montenegro.

Prior to the visit to Peja Municipality there was an official meeting between Berisha and Mayor of Podgorica, Miomir Mugosa, which took place in Podgorica in March this year, when foundations for cooperation between the two municipalities on the return of internally displaced Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian from Peja were laid. On that occasion, Mugosa announced that the Municipality of Podgorica will assist the return of the displaced by participating in the construction of apartments in the Municipality of Pec.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR provides a significant support to cooperation between the two municipalities on the return of internally displaced Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian, through coordination activities between the offices in Podgorica and Peja. The UNHCR believes that the two-day visit of 12-memeber group from camp Konik will contribute to better awareness which will help internally displaced Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian to decide whether to opt for voluntary return to their places of origin.

“Today’s “Go and See” visit is an additional effort and support of UNHCR Kosovo and UNHCR Podgorica to the local authorities in order to support the return of RAE families that are situated in Konik camp 1 and Konik camp 2 in Podgorica”, said Fehmi Kondirolli from the UNHCR Kosovo office.

UNHCR, in cooperation with UNDP Kosovo and the EU, built a settlement in Srbobran two years ago thanks to joint efforts which is around 15 km from Peja and where in 2009, 14 families with 85 members of RAE displaced population from the Municipality of Istok returned to from the camp Konik 1 and other municipalities in MNE. Nowadays they are living in considerably better conditions in comparison to those in Konik camp.

“I am happier here than I would be there. I would never build this house nor buy the land plot. Those who return will have better living conditions. It is better for children and family”, stated 21 year old Urim Morinaj who returned to Srbobran two years ago with his six members family.

The project “Support to the voluntary return to Kosovo” financed by UNHCR Montenegro is part of a comprehensive program of providing durable solutions to some 3,500 internally displaced members of RAE population currently residing in Montenegro. All those who opt to stay in Montenegro, will be integrated into society through an extensive campaign of UNHCR, European Union Delegation to Montenegro, central and local governments, as well as numerous other partners.