Regional Office in South Eastern Europe
Operation: Regional Office in South Eastern Europe
By clicking on the icons on the map, additional information is displayed.
The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.
|2019 year-end results|
|6,300||vulnearable displaced persons were provided with housing solutions|
|13,600||people in Bosnia and Herzegovina were provided with legal aid|
|30,200||asylum-seekers and migrants were counselled in Serbia|
People of Concern
Regional Office in South Eastern Europe
Response in 2019Countries and territories in South-Eastern Europe continued to progress toward solutions for those who remained displaced following the conflict in the 1990s. At the same time, the sub-region grappled with increasing pressures from mixed movements, with asylum-seekers and migrants transiting through the sub-region hoping to reach other parts of Europe.
Within this context, UNHCR prioritized: capacity-building of national asylum systems, including identification of and access for people in need of international protection; promotion of solutions for people displaced during the 1990s; as well as addressing and preventing statelessness. The overarching strategic objective of UNHCR in 2019 was, and will continue to be in the years ahead, to support South-Eastern Europe to gradually shift from being a transit route for asylum-seekers and refugees, to a region offering both protection and viable prospects for solutions.
The already limited protection and response capacities in the region were overwhelmed by large numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers from North Africa, the Middle East and Asia who, despite having transited through countries where they could have sought international protection, continued their journeys through South-Eastern Europe in order to reach western Europe. A significant number of people expressed their intention to apply for asylum in South-Eastern Europe, before moving on.
National asylum laws in several States require a declaration of intention to seek asylum as a precondition to accessing reception centres, temporary accommodation, and/or humanitarian assistance. The focus of frontline asylum authorities was therefore on addressing immediate needs, rather than assessing international protection considerations, with the prevailing perception that people were merely transiting, and unlikely to remain - even if formal asylum was granted.
Against this backdrop, UNHCR assisted national authorities to identify those in need of international protection, as well as other vulnerable individuals, ensuring access to the asylum procedure, and provided support throughout the process. At the same time, with a view to strengthening asylum systems and building national capacity in the context of mixed movements, UNHCR implemented the EU-funded Regional Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA II) project on protection-sensitive migration management.
UNHCR also remained committed to facilitating durable solutions for populations displaced in the region during the 1990s, most notably in the context of the Sarajevo Process and the Regional Housing Programme (RHP) which was extended until 2022. Since the launch of the RHP, housing solutions have been provided to nearly 6,300 vulnerable displaced people across the four partner countries - including some 2,400 in 2019 (the highest number of beneficiaries since the launch of the programme).
The number of people at risk of stateless in the region decreased by 15% (from more than 4,440 to under 3,800).
Operations in South-Eastern Europe in 2019In Albania, UNHCR and partners continued border monitoring activities and assistance to new arrivals, as well as advocated for strengthened identification and referrals of people with specific needs. Progress was also made in relation to the integration of refugees; for example, the issue of incompatible refugee identification numbers which had previously hindered access to public services was resolved. Also in 2019, six by-laws were drafted and approved for the implementation of amendments made to the 2018 Law on Civil Status, following advocacy by UNHCR for legislative changes. Over 350 people had their nationality confirmed through administrative and/or court procedures, out of some 500 people who were assisted by UNHCR.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNHCR supported the improvement of access to asylum systems and reception conditions through capacity-building, outreach and advocacy interventions. Regular monitoring visits were undertaken to the eight reception centres in the country. UNHCR also developed and used a new profiling tool. Legal aid was provided to more than 13,600 people, psychosocial support to some 4,800, and guardianship processes conducted for over 100 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). Three asylum-seekers were granted refugee status, some 40 people received subsidiary protection, and four refugees were naturalized. Birth registration for undocumented foreign children increased as a result of UNHCR advocacy.
In Montenegro, some 1,900 people applied for asylum – only 24% of those who had expressed an intention to seek asylum. Overall arrivals within mixed movements increased by 69% compared to 2018, and 457% compared to 2017. The introduction of the safe third country concept from mid-2019 resulted in only six (0.3%) positive asylum decisions, and delays at every stage of the asylum procedure. At the end of 2019, 26 people were granted international protection, while 20 left during the year. Some 60% of working age refugees had found employment and all school-aged children regularly attended school. Three people were recognized as de jure stateless through the new statelessness determination procedure, which provided a legal channel to regularize their status.
In North Macedonia, reception conditions improved significantly, particularly children’s access to formal education and foster guardianship for UASC. Free legal aid was provided to all asylum-seekers (nearly 500 people). The deportation of a person in need of international protection in detention was prevented as a result of a request for application of interim measures (Rule 39) by the European Court of Human Rights. After years of advocacy, the Government ratified the law to accede to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and drafted a law to temporarily register nearly 600 unregistered people and provide them access to several rights.
In Serbia, UNHCR continued to support the authorities in strengthening the asylum system through capacity-building of national structures and free legal aid to asylum-seekers. Some 30,200 asylum-seekers and migrants were counselled, including some 3,800 UASC. Some 66% of the 250 people who submitted asylum claims in 2019 were represented in asylum procedures (including 20 UASC), of which 14 were granted refugee status (including one UASC) and 12 were granted subsidiary protection. UNHCR trained asylum authorities on European Court for Human Rights jurisprudence and on airport asylum procedures. UNHCR continued to advocate for the introduction of statelessness determination procedures and to support vulnerable IDPs in accessing social and economic rights.
In Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)), UNHCR monitored refugee status determination (RSD) procedure, ensured a presence in the asylum centre and advocated for the strengthening of the asylum system. Guidelines on accelerated RSD procedures were adopted. Some 30 asylum-seekers were granted refugee status. All refugees were issued refugee identification cards. UNHCR conducted trainings for RSD officials, the judiciary and the legal clinic associated with the Faculty of Law. The Office also provided legal aid, counselling and in-court representation to over 300 unregistered individuals. UNHCR facilitated the registration and provision of identification documents to unregistered and undocumented displaced persons from Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)) in Montenegro, decreasing the number of unregistered and undocumented displaced people from 1,400 to just under 60, and also registered some 12 returnee children. Most of the displaced people belonged to the Roma-Ashkali-Egyptian minority.
Strategy and Response in 2019With regards to the new arrivals, UNHCR will aim to ensure operational protection and asylum building. UNHCR will focus on ensuring most urgent humanitarian and protection needs of refugees and asylum-seekers are met, building a referral and profiling processes to ensure that those in need of assistance are timely assisted and have access to adequate and dignified reception facilities.
UNHCR will contribute to the creation of a supportive integration environment so that refugees are integrated into the national social service scheme without discrimination.
Protection monitoring will be strengthened, focusing on the implementation of international standards and corresponding national policies and procedures, especially related to protection of children and other vulnerable groups. Through strengthened partnerships, and ensuring community participation, UNHCR will support the functional government-led mechanisms and advocate for access to free legal aid provided by national legal aid systems.
In 2019, focus will remain on advocacy for effective solutions for the remaining Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)) refugees; voluntary return or integration in displacement for those unable or unwilling to return. UNHCR will maintain the catalytic role within the regional Skopje institutional platform on durable solutions and will provide support on protection monitoring and advocacy for solutions through strategic partnerships with relevant stakeholders. Attention will be given to property rights, security and documentation. UNHCR will engage relevant institutions to ensure, with the support of consistent bilateral funding, durable solutions for the majority of the displaced people in need.
UNHCR will work towards prevention of statelessness in the region. Interventions will include community based initiatives and advocacy for normative changes as well as capacity building of judiciary and registrars on the effective implementation of laws.