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UNMIK Office for Communities, Returns & Minority Affairs - OCRM MONTHLY UPDATE

October issue 2005

According to UNHCR statistics, of those people who have been displaced since 1999, 3989 minorities voluntarily returned to their homes in 2004 and 2005 with the highest numbers of returns in the regions of Peja/Pec and Prishtinë/Pristina. The total number of minority returnees since 2000 is estimated at 14,146. As of end of October 1362 people remained displaced as a result of the March violence last year, out of a total of approximately 4,100 originally displaced during this time.

OCRM Acting Director Kilian Kleinschmidt and the Head of Policy and Field Coordination Unit Svjetlana Jovic on 19 October began a two-day visit to Belgrade where they held wide-ranging discussions with some SCG Government officials and diplomats on the returns process. Discussions with the embassies focused on repatriation and minority issues and voluntary returns to Kosovo as well as support of their governments to the returns process. During the meeting with the Minister for Minorities and Human Rights, Rasim Ljajic, the Acting Director of OCRM emphasized the need for closer cooperation between the Ministry and UNMIK Mr. Kilian Kleinschmidt also visited Rahovac/Orahovac on 27 October and Pejë/Pec on 28 where he held fruitful and extensive discussions with Municipal officials on ways of advancing the returns process.

On 6 October, the first meeting of the Working Group on "Returns Process and Rights Based Sustainability - Security and Freedom of Movement" was held. MCR and OCRM co-chaired the meeting. Both MCR and OCRM emphasized the need for increased involvement of local institutions and partners, and the necessity to include IDP representatives in a consultative process.

OCRM on 10 October gave an orientation briefing on the current developments in the returns process to Municipal Steering Committee members involved in the MISI (Municipal Infrastructure Support Initiative) project. The project is funded by USAID through the NGO Mercy Corps. MCR and Municipal officials from Ferizaj/Urosevac, Kline/a, Fushe Kosove/Kosovo Polje, Obiliq/c, Shterpce/Strpce and Vushtrri/Vucitrin participated in the training.

OCRM Minority Rights Adviser and the Deputy Head of Mission OSCE Kosovo on the 20 and 21 October, participated in a panel on "the situation of Roma minorities, IDPs and returnees: the need for a common strategy, with a special focus on Kosovo." She explained the three-pronged strategy that UNMIK had adopted to address the crisis of the RAE in northern Kosovo, living in lead polluted areas: Risk Management in the current camps, a plan for a medical evacuation, and the strategy of rebuilding the Roma Mahala as the only sustainable return solution.

The COCG formed a Project Review Committee, which at its inaugural meeting on 26 October, appraised and agreed the funding of two project proposals that the UNDP had earlier been tabled to the WG. The projects are the publication of the next issue of the Dialogue Magazine and the TV project submitted by the Ministry of Communities and Returns {MCR}.

On 31 October a delegation of the Swiss Federal Office for Migration and the Swiss Liaison Office in Prishtine/Pristina met with the OiC/OCRM to discuss possible future involvement of the Swiss Confederation in supporting the returns process. Mr. Kleinschmidt briefed the Swiss officials on the returns situation and outlined the need for further support to return projects and capacity building efforts on the ground, in order to enable communities to receive returnees. The issue of forced returns was discussed, and the existing policy of UNMIK, in line with the UNHCR position paper, was explained.

On 4 October Minister Astrit Haracija (MCYS) and Kilian Kleinschmidt, OiC/OCRM met to discuss a possible way ahead for the still not finalized March 2004 reconstruction. The Minister recognized that conflicting information lead to confusion and, in principle, agreed to ask for an audit of the Central Inter-ministerial Commission (CIMC) as proposed by OCRM. OCRM handed over a technical assessment on complaints received from Svinjare/Frasher inhabitants to the Minister- an independent commission validated 38 complaints and assessed the houses as un- inhabitable.

On 20 October the Standard Working Group on Freedom of Movement and Sustainable Return and the Right of Communities convened with Minister Haziri as chair. He strongly emphasized continuation of work on the standard implementation. Mr. Haziri strongly encouraged the Ministry of Transport and Communication to implement necessary measures to constitute the experimental lines and speed up the process of licensing of technical control points in minority areas. The meeting discussed a wide range of issues. OCRM urged additional efforts to conclude the reconstruction and find a solution for compensation of destroyed commercial property.

The Working Group on Municipal Responsibilities and Capacity Building held its first meeting on 21 October. The main purpose of the Group is to identify the weakness in the return process from the point of view Municipalities and make recommendations to enhance the process. The Group also agreed to expand its core membership to include a representative profile from the field by incorporating Municipal PISG staff.

A two-day workshop on the Access to Human Rights, including social and economic rights, for Refugees, IDPs and Minority Groups in Serbia and Montenegro was held Belg rade , from 18-19 October. It focused on international and European standards on access to social rights, with special emphasis placed on the European Social Charter. Four Roma National Action Plans of the Republic of Serbia (housing, employment, education and health) were presented and discussed.

On 25 October, OCRM field support unit attended a cross fertilization meeting on Urban Returns in Kline/a Municipality. This meeting was jointly organized by the Municipal Representatives (MR) and Municipal Assembly Presidents (MAP) of Lipjan/Lipljan and Kline/a and their respective team to share Kline/a Urban Returns Best Practices. The two Municipalities exchanged ideas and agreed to remain engaged and enhance cooperation on the issue of Urban Returns. It is highly recommended that such Municipal technical and capacity building exchange should be encouraged with a view of spread best practices.

A seminar on the "Situation of Refugees and Displaced persons in the Region of the Stability Pact for the South-East Europe was held on 17 and 18 October, organized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in collaboration with the Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative {MARRI}Centre in Skopje. The participants expressed concerns about sustainability of returns throughout the region and discussed the need to create an environment conducive to returns. Significant attention was given to the situation of the Roma population throughout the region.


For further information, please contact Lejla Kolenovic, Information Assistant, OCRM, tel.: 038 504 604, Ext. 6429


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