UNHCR housing project brings hope to refugees in Montenegro

A glimmer of hope was clearly seen in the eyes of Djergić Konstadin as the construction material for his future home was unloaded from the truck.

His five members family, living in Danilovgrad, is the first one to receive aid within the programme of housing construction assistance to Displaced and Internally Displaced Persons in Montenegro.

“I am so grateful for the material that is provided to my family. It gave me the will to live, to work, to provide decent living conditions for my children. Finally, we’ll have a roof over our heads”, said Konstadin, a construction craftsman who will build a new house so that the family can have decent living conditions.

Djergić family arrived in Montenegro from Kosovo in 1999. The family purchased an old and poor-condition 40 m2 village house six years ago, which can be neither upgraded nor expanded.

In the coming months, 105 families will benefit from UNHCR’s delivery of housing construction assistance to Displaced and Internally Displaced Persons in Montenegro.

The assistance is worth 616,000 EUR and has been funded by the Council of Europe Development Bank. Out of 220 received applications, 60 families have been selected by UNHCR, HELP and Bureau for Care of Refugees. The families will receive assistance for housing construction in phases from now until mid-2012, along with the technical expertise under the supervision of the German NGO HELP, UNHCR’s main implementing partner for shelter activities.

Out of that number, 16 families will be assisted through delivery of building materials for construction of new housing units and 33 will receive materials needed for completion of already-initiated construction. 11 extremely vulnerable families who are not able to conduct construction works on their own will be assisted with pre-fabricated houses on land they own or land that was donated by local authorities.

In addition to these 60 families, upgrade works will be conducted on 45 prefabricated barracks and 2 common sanitary blocks in the refugee settlement Rudes 2 in Berane.

Brita Helleland, UNHCR Representative to Montenegro, believes that improvement of families’ housing conditions will substantially support their socio-economic integration into Montenegrin society.

“The assistance is an integral part of the support to the Government of Montenegro’s commitment to resolve the problems of persons displaced from the former Yugoslav republics and Kosovo, which is enshrined in the ‘The Strategy for Durable Solutions of Issues  Regarding Displaced and Internally Displaced Persons in Montenegro, with Special  Emphasis on the Konik Area’ and the Action Plan adopted in 2011”, said Ms. Helleland.

In addition to proper legal status, which would enable refugees full access to the basic rights, an equally important pre-condition for successful integration and one of the most acute needs among displaced populations remains to be adequate individual housing.

Many DPs and IDPs continue to live in sub-standard dwellings, struggle with rental payments for private accommodation, and fear eviction from informal collective centers that they illegally occupy.

With the support of international stakeholders, Government of Montenegro is participating in the regional process to find solutions to protracted displacement from the 1991-1995 conflict in the Western Balkans.

A regional Donors’ Conference, to be held in April  2012, is expected to raise funds for housing asssitance, to be implemented over a five-year period.