Operational information on the South-Eastern Europe subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:
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The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.
Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion South-Eastern Europe
People of Concern - 2020[["Refugees",32830],["Refugee-like situation",118],["Asylum-seekers",1349],["IDPs",309323],["Returned IDPs",375],["Returned refugees",24],["Stateless",7151],["Others of concern",17783]]
Response in 2020In 2020, UNHCR’s three priorities in the region were to: 1) build the capacity of national asylum systems, including identification of, and access for, people in need of international protection; 2) promote solutions for people displaced during the 1990s; and 3) address and prevent statelessness.
In 2020, the South-Eastern Europe region faced continued mixed movements of asylum-seekers and migrant—transiting in the hope of reaching western and northern Europe—but also with the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which further reduced the protection space. Although national lockdowns and border closures resulted in a temporary reduction in the number of arrivals, there were 52,500 new arrivals in 2020, a slight decrease when compared with 53,000 reported in 2019. However, border closure, the suspension of registration of all foreigners and asylum procedures, restriction of movement of asylum-seekers and migrants, overcrowded reception facilities and limited access to asylum facilities by UNHCR staff, impacted the provision of protection to asylum-seekers and refugees. Despite UNHCR’s advocacy effort towards the resumption of the registration of asylum procedures, the number of applications in the region did not reach pre–COVID-19 levels, as only an estimated 4,600 people were able to file an application in 2020 compared to 12,000 in 2019. Furthermore, in 2020, only 85 people were granted refugee or subsidiary protection compared to 133 in 2019 and 138 in 2018. People granted protection in the region nevertheless continued to face integration challenges such as lack of effective access to some of the rights provided by law, thus hindering livelihood prosects.
While the main strategic objective of UNHCR in the sub-region was—and will continue to be in the years ahead—to support South-Eastern Europe in undertaking a strategic shift from being primarily a region of transit towards one which offers durable solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers, UNHCR in 2020 worked with partners to address the most pressing needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing restrictions. It also advocated with the relevant authorities to include people of concern into national COVID-19 response plans. UNHCR expanded its cash assistance initiatives and supported some 267 people of concern whose livelihoods were impacted by the pandemic restrictions. Within the more restrictive protection context, UNHCR nevertheless adapted its way of working and continued to provide legal assistance to 5,300 individuals and legal counselling on asylum procedures to 17,000 individuals. UNHCR worked with partners to support hygiene and social distancing measures in reception and registration centres and provided PPEs and other equipment to support continued asylum procedures or online activities such as opportunities for adult and children to pursue their educational or language classes online.
UNHCR also continued its close cooperation with the wide range of actors and drafted a new regional Strategy for Engagement in Mixed Movements in the Western Balkans. Bridging the humanitarian nexus, UNHCR engaged within the UNSDCFs at the regional level to ensure that no refugees, asylum-seekers, IDPs and nor stateless persons are left behind, but rather fully included in sustainable development plans.
In 2020, UNHCR 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 over 7,800 of the most vulnerable displaced, refugee and returnee families, which is two-thirds of the total number targeted (11,800) by the Programme before its planned closure in June 2022.
UNHCR continued to work with partners to address statelessness by commenting on draft legislations, supporting the establishment of Stateless Determination Procedures and welcomed North Macedonia’s accession to the Statelessness Convention in January 2020. Over 1,100 people in the region were supported in 2020 to acquire a civil document such as a birth certificate or were able to confirm their citizenship.
Operations with no individual operation summaryIn Albania, UNHCR supported the Government in implementing a new approach which entails differentiated pathways and procedures (based on whether a person is found to be in need of international protection or not) to efficiently manage increased mixed movements. UNHCR and partners continued monitoring borders, provided asylum information, and assessed vulnerabilities of some 14,400 new arrivals, strengthened local structures and advocated to address post-lockdown limitations in access to asylum. UNHCR and the Interior Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance operational cooperation. The Government began issuing ID cards to refugees, thus increasing integration prospects. Partners provided services and assistance to 117 people of concern to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. To prevent statelessness, UNHCR worked closely with the Parliament on the adoption of a new Citizenship Law. In this regard, 238 key officials were trained, and 470 people were assisted with confirmation of their nationality.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNHCR supported the asylum system and reception conditions through capacity-building, free legal aid, community-based protection, and advocacy interventions. UNHCR also worked closely with the relevant authorities to enhance access to, and the efficiency of, the asylum procedures. UNHCR and partners were regularly present in all reception centres and key field locations to provide information and support for those seeking asylum. Legal aid was provided to more than 5,000 people while psychosocial support to some 3,961 individuals. One person was granted refugee status, 31 people received subsidiary protection, and 14 refugees naturalized (including four former refugees from Croatia). All 21 undocumented foreign children born in 2020 were supported to obtain a birth certificate.
In Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)), UNHCR advocated for effective registration and documentation, legal representation and counselling, protection interventions, monitoring and advocacy, as well as the search for durable solutions. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR ensured that asylum-seekers and refugees were provided with quarantine facilities and had access to information through online information sources as well free telephone helplines. UNHCR supported the local authorities in improving accommodation capacity and quality in the asylum centres, including the provision of internet access to facilitate e-learning opportunities. A total of 11 asylum-seekers were granted refugee status, while three received subsidiary protection; 240 unregistered individuals benefited from legal aid for late birth registration; for the first time, four positive stateless status decisions were issued.
In Montenegro, the pace of new arrivals declined by 50% compared to 2019, in part due to COVID-19 border restrictions. Some 2,800 people registered an intention to seek asylum and 539 people lodged an asylum request. All asylum-seekers regained access to refugee status determination procedures after the Montenegro court challenged the rejection of asylum claims on the basis of the safe third country concept. Furthermore, eight long-term asylum-seekers were granted refugee status. UNHCR worked with the Government to ensure the inclusion of asylum-seekers and refugees into the national COVID-19 response plan. Two people were recognized as de jure stateless, raising the number of people with regularized status through the statelessness determination procedure to five.
In North Macedonia, despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the asylum procedure continued without interruption as the Government introduced, with UNHCR support, remote asylum interviews and successfully tested the online interpretation platform provided through the Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI). UNHCR provided legal counselling to 3,963 people and legal assistance to 394 people to access their basic rights. UNHCR advocated with the authorities to include people of concern into the national COVID-19 response plan and provided PPEs to frontline workers and people of concern. UNHCR actively engaged in the UNSDCF 2021-2025 to ensure that no refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons are left behind but rather fully included in the path towards the sustainable development of the country.
In Serbia, UNHCR continued to support the asylum system through capacity-building and provision of information and interpretation. In 2020, some 3,800 people were counselled on asylum, 135 asylum-seekers were represented by UNHCR’s legal partners in the asylum procedure (including 17 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC)) of which 28 were granted international protection. Reception conditions were enhanced and services for persons with specific needs were provided. In particular, the guardianship system for UASC was further developed. The economic and socio-cultural integration of people of concern was supported through access to the labour market (13 people), education (121 children and 43 adults), private accommodation (25 people) and cash assistance (96 people). In terms of preventing statelessness, some 84 people had nationality granted or confirmed and 323 people obtained ID cards.
Working environment and response in 2020
In 2020, UNHCR will target four main objectives:
2020 Budget and Expenditure in South-Eastern Europe | USD
2020 Voluntary Contributions to | USD
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