Return and Impact The Voice of Stakeholders and Returnees. Conference Report. Expert Conference. RETURN and IMPACT

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1 Verein für Opfer von Gewalt und Menschenrechtsverlet zungen Organization for Victims of Violence and Human Rights Violations Return and Impact The Voice of Stakeholders and Returnees Conference Report Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT The Challenge of Good Practice in International Return Programmes to Kosovo Friday, 17th- Sunday 19th October 2008 Hotel Grand - Prishtina, Kosovo OMEGA GESUNDHEITSSTELLE / HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ Albert-Schweitzer-Gasse 22, A-8020 Graz Telefon: +43 / 316 / Fax:+43 /

2 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT The Challenge of Good Practice in International Return Programmes to Kosovo Project Partners: OMEGA- Health Care Centre, Graz, Austria International Medical Program, Linköping, Sweden Slovene Philanthropy, Ljubjlana, Slovenia Operational Partners: IOM Pristina, Kosovo QPEA Center for the Promotion of Education, Ferizaj, Kosovo Financial Partners: EU-Commission, Freedom Security and Justice, The Return Fund Land Steiermark, Social Department, Deputy Governor Dr. Kurt Flecker Conference presentations are ready for download: OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

3 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT Introduction Before the war a mother came to visit me, crying, saying that her only son and his family had decided to emigrate. I was trying to calm her down, explaining, that Kosovo would be unsafe and this was why he wanted to leave the country. Now, after the war, the same mother came to me again, crying, saying that her son and his family would be returned to Kosovo and that she did not know what he would do here in Kosovo. The successful return and reintegration of former refugees is a challenge that needs combined forces, governments and NGOs working together side by side to achieve one goal the sustainable repatriation of former refugees to their homeland including their reintegration into society.. The return in dignity is the last lag of a long and difficult journey that begins with war, conflict and fear. But the reintegration into the former environment is a challenge for all parties involved in the process and involves a fair amount of endurance. Many questions are raised: What was achieved? If not enough, how can our support be more efficient in upcoming years and programmes? This conference was aimed to answer some of those questions. It was aimed to bring together various experts involved in Return programmes, to give us a chance to share information and expertise to learn from each other s experience and eventually evaluate our own work and efforts. Return and Impact The voice of Stakeholders and Returnees The conference held in the Hotel Grand in Pristina was an important activity of our EU- project Return and Impact- The Voice of Stakeholders and Returnees carried out by OMEGA Health Care Centre as contract holder in cooperation with our international partners the International Medical Program (IMP), Slovene Philanthropy since August Other activities carried out beforehand were the evaluation of two return programmes, the Styrian Return Program for refugees who had fled to Styria, Austria as well as the Swedish Medical Evacuation Program evaluated by the International Medical Program IMP. Both teams, IMP and OMEGA, went to Kosovo in February/March 2008 to conduct interviews with former returnees and patients, the outcome of which can be viewed in the respective conference presentations featured in this report. OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

4 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International A further important objective of the project was the setting up of a network of experts involved in return programmes and activities all over world and especially in the Balkan region; this network was built up by our partner organisation, the Slovene Philanthropy, and today consists of a comprehensive list of involved organisations and network partners. Expert Conference on Return in Pristina The choice of location was easy, as Pristina is home to and headquarter of many local, national, regional and international organisations and institutions and as the capital of the newborn country it the place where politics are made. For some of our participants it was their first time to Kosovo and Pristina, so that the liveliness of Kosovo s largest city was also their first impression of Kosovo. A total of 48 participants from more than 20 organisations and nine different countries participated, including 18 key speakers, who gave presentations on models of good practice for return programmes, focussing on the reintegration into society, employment and schooling and on the specific situation of returnees children in today s society in Kosovo. One of the results of the expert conference was a list of recommendations on how to improve return efforts and programmes which we will be communicating in our own work and to those political stakeholders who can make a difference. As funding is a difficult key-element in most projects, we only had one full and two half days to fit in all the topics we wanted to discuss, which resulted in a tight schedule intensive work. The spirit of commitment was ever present and resulted in further work over dinner and reaching out to our international colleagues thus strengthening the network, as essential part of our conference. We therefore hope that the report of the conference, with the list of participants included will help participants to refresh ideas from our working sessions and get in touch with others. Special thanks goes to the team of QPEA Ferizaj, and here Ramush Lekaj and Arlinda Jusufi who helped us organising the conference and who were always there to help us out with good ideas on the spot. We especially appreciate the efforts made and support provided by IOM Pristina and here Ruhije Beganovic and her team, who helped us with logistics and setting up a mobile office and who were nice and flexible enough to not hang up on us when we called late at night with still more requests. OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

5 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT EXPERT CONFERENCE RETURN and IMPACT The Challenge of Good Practice in International Return Programmes to Kosovo Conference Program Day 1 Day 1, Friday Afternoon Arrival of participants Joint Dinner and registration of participants 19:00-19:30 Emir Kuljuh- Opening of the Conference Welcome address and Introduction of the conference: purpose, aims, working methods :15 Violeta Berisha Senior Professional Officer for Readmission & RepatriationMinistry of Internal Affairs Kosovo: department of border, asylum and migration, KOSOVO Opening lecture Ambaoumba Mbili Senior Programme officer UNHCR Prishtina, KOSOVO the challenges of assistence in voluntary return programmes Day 2 Saturday Morning session Lectures and discussion: Ann Guthmiller National Medical Officer, IOM Prishtina, KOSOVO There s no Place like Home Assessing the Impact and the Costs of Assisted Voluntary Return Günther Bauer; Fatmire Maloku Head of the Styrian refugee office Styrian provincial government, AUSTRIAThe Styrian Approach: Return, Reconstruction and Support Coffee break Michaela Handke, Nicola Baloch OMEGA- Health Care Centre, AUSTRIA Return and Impact to Kosovo, an Evaluation Report OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

6 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International Saturday Morning session Yngve Torberntsson International Medical Program, SWEDEN Follow- up of Swedish Medevac project- Interviews of repatriated patients and their families Franci Zlatar Slovene Philanthropy, SLOVENIA Return of Separated Children to Kosovo Anica Mikus KosSlovene Philanthropy, SLOVENIA Retraumatisation in Reintegration Lunch break Day 2, Saturday Afternoon session Lectures and discussion: Michael Possmayer Danish Red Cross, DENMARK/ KOSOVO Ewa Jonsson Swedish Red Cross, SWEDEN Network for Return: Experiences, Findings and Recommendations and European Red Cross Return Initiative (ERCRI) Ramush Lekaj Director of the Center for the Promotion of Education- QPEA, KOSOVOThe Magura Modell Tea time Arsim Blaku APPK, GERMANY / KOSOVO Job integration of Returnees Claire Poteaux and Gregoire Crettaz IOM Bern/ Swiss Migration Attache Office, SWITZERLAND/ KOSOVOAssisted voluntary return from Switzerland to the Western Balkans Lulezim Bucolli Balkan Sunflowers, KOSOVO Community Based Education and Sense of Belonging 19:30-20:30 Joint Dinner Day 3 Day 3, Sun., :00-11:00 Group Work I +II Good practice in the Implementation of Return Programmes- The challenge of Reintegration and Social Reconstruction 11:00-12:00 Recommendations and Conclusio 12:00-13:00 Closing of conference/ Lunch OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

7 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT Opening of the Conference Opening Speech EMIR KULJUH, OMEGA; GRAZ, AUSTRIA Good evening and welcome to the Republic of Kosovo. I am very thankful to have the chance to be here and speak here and to have been able to organise this conference with my team from OMEGA. During this conference we will talk about return, strategies, problems and the resources that we will need to make the return process easier and more efficient. [ ] I would therefore like to greet you on behalf of OMEGA and on behalf of our partner organisations. I thank you for coming here to talk with us about these very important issues and topics [ ]. I would like to especially greet Mr. Ismet Hashani from the Kosovo Ministry of Return and Communities and Mrs. Violeta Berisha from the Department of Border, Asylum and Migration in the Kosovo Ministry of Internal Affairs. [ ] I would like to also greet all the people who have helped to finance this project, especially the Styrian government, and here Deputy Governor Dr. Kurt Flecker and the European Commission respectively the Department of Freedom Security and Justice. Today will be a general introduction to the topic, tomorrow we will be talking about Good practice of return and reintegration. [ ] On Sunday, which is the closing day of the conference, we will be working in groups on selected topics concerning the support provided by hosting countries and the needs and support of the local society that is readopting its members. Opening Speech ISMET HASHANI, MINISTRY OF RETURN AND COMMUNITIES, PRISHTINA, KOSOVO I would like to say that I feel privileged to be here. On behalf of the ministry I would like to greet the participants and the organisers. I have no doubt that in this conference we will be having outstanding outputs regarding return and reintegration and regarding other components related to this processes in Kosovo and other countries. OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ

8 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International It has been our duty since the declaration of independence of Kosovo to take care of the displaced people, give them back their political rights and respect their basic human rights. [ ] If we respect the rights of the communities, this means that we respect our own rights as well as ourselves. Introductory key speaker VIOLETA BERISHA, DEPARTMENT OF BORDER, ASYLUM AND MIGRATION OF THE MI- NISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS; PRISHTINA, KOSOVO I would like to greet all of you and thank Omega for organising the conference. My department was opened in August 2006 so it is quite young. It deals with readmission, reintegration, return and all the processes that are related to it. [ ] We have taken over the organisation of readmission from UNMIK on January 1st We also deal with verification requests from hosting countries and very often we need to cooperate with other departments. We would like to thank the Return Office of UNMIK, because they have done a good job and they have helped us through many a crises we have had in and around Kosovo. [ ] Talking about readmission is a sensitive issue, as we are talking about human rights, families and children who have been born in the host countries and now come back to Kosovo. We also had to adopt many new policies, as for unaccompanied children, and luckily these are only rare cases. We have to respect international laws, the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Convention, the UN Convention against Torture and others. Concerning the readmission and reintegration of families and children, it has to be said that their status is very often not clear in their hosting country [ ]Many times we talk about forced return if I may say so and it is especially hard to help those people to reintegrate. Also so far only little has generally been done for the reintegration of returnees into society. It has to be stated though that we have received so far over 3000 cases of request for readmission and we have worked on more than 80% on them, including official statistics of those having returned to Kosovo. Until the end of 2008 we await a total number of 5000 people applying for readmission. [ ] Questions: How much do you do on informing citizens, how can you help them to have access to information, what are your duties on this topic? All hosting countries have our data and they can talk to us if they need further documents or information. 8 OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

9 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT What has been done to integrate people in everyday life? Do you have statistics on this? I have talked about readmission, but I have to say that little or nothing has been done to integrate people in everyday life. What if you come across information about vulnerable people that makes you think that they will be difficult to integrate- say Roma - do you contact the host country to make sure they are not going to be returned forcefully? I have expected this question: the UNMIK office is dealing with this specific process of readmission of people whose safety is threatened in Kosovo; we share this information with UNMIK and the host countries. Since competences have been handed over to the Kosovo government, the government has been planning to establish an agreement with hosting countries not to send these people back. [ ] In the application for readmission, people do not state their ethnic origin but only state that they are Kosovar. Introductory keynote speaker AMBAOUMBA MBILI, UNHCR PRISHTINA; KOSOVO Return: Practices and Challenges My speech will be focused on voluntary return of displaced persons.[ ] The UNHCR has offices in Gjilan, Mitrovicë, Pejë. Prishtina and Prizren. [ ] I would also like to clarify the terms IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) and refugees because there is a slight difference. In Kosovo we focus on IDP and people at risk of statelessness. [ ] We work together with international and national NGOs and our work is to facilitate the support and necessary conditions people need to reintegrate. For this we need to work together with the government of the host country, and we strengthen the capacity of the local government, also in terms of material support and in terms of protection. We also work together with the civil society. We are mainly involved in protection, to make sure that peoples rights are not violated. [ ] Our work is now at end and we are handing over the responsibility to the local government. [ ] Our key principle for support is that the return has to be voluntary, in safety and in dignity. Returnees they have the right to settle at their former place or resettle somewhere else, but no one should tell them where to return to. [ ] Sustainability in Kosovo is a challenge and when you design a return program you need to consider the profile of the people you design it for. The gender should be considered and no difference should be made between different returnees, whether their return is voluntary, non-voluntary, spontaneous etc. [ ] Establishing a profile of IDPs OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ

10 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International is difficult, as we do not know about the refugees in Serbia, Macedonia etc. In each return program there is need for early planning and working together and to make sure that people can discuss their issues about their return with UNHCR and others. In this approach we stay pragmatic and flexible. [ ] We facilitate dialogue within the communities, provide information and make sure people can return in safety and dignity. But there are challenges for our work, as Kosovo is a highly politicised environment and has only limited capacities and data. [ ] We have the possibility to take into consideration both the perspectives of the host and the home country which proves to be very useful for us. Questions: About an IOM Prishtina project funded by UNMIK: asylum seekers, how many people applied for asylum in Kosovo in 2008 and is there any way to assist them? There are only a few so far, we have been working with Kosovo government in order for them to have a strategy for asylum seekers. 18th October 2008 Day 2 Lectures and discussions ANN GUTHMILLER, IOM PRISHTINA, KOSOVO There s no Place like Home Assessing the Impact and the Costs of Assisted Voluntary Return IOM Pristina has 73 staff members spread over 7 offices throughout Kosovo: Prizren, Zvecan, Vushtrri, Gllogoc, Peja, Mitrovica and the head office in Pristina with 55 staff members. The support of IOM in general is based on the Assisted Voluntary Return and Assistance Programmes, including return from the western Balkans, UK, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy and Germany. Their work also includes employment Assistance Services for returnees from Switzerland. In addition to this IOM provides transport and direct assistance through their Kosovo Humanitarian Return Programme. One major focus of their work is the direct and immediate assistance when the returnees arrive in Kosovo, providing information, airport assistance, special assistance for medical cases and onward transportation to the returnees final destinations. Furthermore IOM focuses on reintegration into civil society and employment, also providing individual counselling according to the returnee s individual skills and background. As the sustainability of reintegration is one major topic in the work of IOM Pristina, their reintegration (assistance) services also include referrals to skills upgrade training, small micro enterprise management training, provision of salary subsidies for on-the-job training, referral to existing job opportunities and the provision of technical and financial assistance for small business development, with monitoring and evaluation visits included. As Ann Guthmiller from IOM Pristina has pointed out, assisted return minimizes the costs of what would otherwise be the consequences of return without assistance (irregular migration, health consequences for the returnee and public health and the pressure on an overburdened economy). IOM Pristina aims at rebuilding lives. 10 OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

11 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT GÜNTHER BAUER, FATMIRE MALOKU; STYRIAN PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT, AUSTRIA Returning Rebuilding Contributing. The Kosova project of Styria The support for war affected people in and from Kosovo by the Styrian provincial government under the head of then Provincial Social Councillor Dr. Kurt Flecker included two projects: the hosting of refugees in Styria, with providing for them during their stay in Austria and their eventual return and the building of houses in some of the regions/ villages in Kosovo which were mostly affected by the consequences and atrocities of war. In Styria the government officials worked together with local NGOs, soldiers, medical institutions and with other civil representative authorities to optimise the welcome and care for the arriving refugees. The refugees were picked up at the airport and were provided immediate psychological and medical help as well as information and shelter. Mr. Bauer stressed the fact that many people back in the refugee camps in Macedonia had been misinformed about Austria and Austrian help and thus many feared they would not be allowed to stay in Austria if their medical condition was not well enough, leading to stress and fear, which could only be erased by very personal and intimate individual counselling by Kosovar students. Mr. Bauer also emphasised the importance of the help of those 50 students who volunteered to translate and assist officials. Many of them volunteered to spend their free time with the refugees families, providing them with a feeling of security as they could talk openly in their mother tongue. The return was organized with the help of IOM Vienna, after the individual situation of each family was noted and considered, pictures of the destroyed houses were taken, granting each returnee financial support and construction material. The return and the rebuilding of the houses in the affected villages of the Vushtri region were supported and monitored not only by the Styrian government officials but also by local partners. Mr. Bauer emphasized the value and importance of reliable partners, who constitute the essential part of any successful rebuilding project. Questions: Were there any tensions between those people that got a wooden house and those that got a brick house? People who went back at the earliest possible time were not jealous because they knew if they went back first they would receive a wooden house, because there were no bricks available. What kind of programs do you have for returnee children, for those that have lived in the host country for many years. I have seen things from a different perspective, as I work as a teacher in Kosovo, and when the children returned it was psychologically difficult for them to adapt again and many times retraumatization is the consequence What kind of programmes do you have or do you want to set up for preparing the families emotionally? The children coming back speak French, German but they do not speak Albanian. It is the law in Austria, that all children should have lessons in their mother tongue and in those schools were there is a sufficient amount of Albanian-speaking children a mother-tongue teacher is employed. All governments in Austria are aware that this is a difficult issue for all returnees. We are right now talking with other provincial governments in Austria to launch new return projects, which will have to be a mixture between economic and financial assistance and social integration including psychological care. OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ

12 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International EMIR KULJUH, NICOLA BALOCH, MICHAELA HANDKE (OMEGA; GRAZ, AUSTRIA) Return and Impact- The voice of Stakeholders and Returnees, an Evaluation Report The overall goal of this sub-project within the framework of the main project Return and Impact was to evaluate the Styrian return program, which was presented by Günther Bauer from the Styrian government. The OMEGA team therefore in February/March 2008 conducted 10 interviews with stakeholders in Austria and Kosovo who were involved in the return program shortly after the end of the war. Furthermore the team also conducted 33 interviews in 9 families who had returned to Kosovo through the program. OMEGA also wrote a special report on the specific situation of children within the return process, as the experiences they had did not fit the prepared questionnaire but where seen as equally valuable for the evaluation of the program. In addition to this and upon request from the Styrian government the team from OMEGA also interviewed 31 families who received a house through another program, which was also presented by Mr. Bauer, to find out about their specific integration progress and the role their new houses had played in it. The overall impression through these interviews was the desperation of the situation that some families still find themselves in, even though the return program as well as the house-building program can be regarded as successful and as examples of good practise. The outcome of the evaluation of both programmes are stated in detail in a report which will be available for download on the OMEGA website. YNGVE TOBERNTSSON (INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL PROGRAM, LINGKÖPING, SWEDEN) Follow-up the Swedish Medical Evacuation Program Interviewing patients in their home environment The Swedish Medical Evacuation Program (SMP) ( ) is the second in a row of medical programs carried out by the International Medical Program; head of the organisation is the medical doctor Åke Björn. The first program was launched as early as 1995 in Bosnia (until 2008) and in Palestine ( ). Since 1995 over 3750 patients from Bosnia and Kosovo have been treated, of which 187 have been evacuated for treatment to Sweden. Overall 110 Swedish medical professional were involved. In addition 154 health professionals from the Balkan region were invited for a professional training in Sweden. In addition to the medical treatment of the patients psychological and psychosocial aspects of the treatment and the reintegration of patients who had returned from Sweden had been considered and taken care of by SMP. Follow up interviews therefore also played an important role within the program. The families were visited in 2000, 2002 and 2008, with the focus on the interviews in 2008 based on the following two topics: How did family members in Kosovo experience the return of the family member who had been in Sweden for medical treatment? How did the patients themselves experience their return to Kosovo? Focus was therefore also laid on the evaluation of the Medical Evacuation Program. FRANCI ZLATAR, SLOVENE PHILANTHROPY; LJUBLJANA; EXPERT NETWORK ON RETURN Returning of Separated Children to their country of origin Franci Zlatar and Slovene Philanthropy as a project partner of OMEGA was responsible for setting up an expert-network which will help organisations involved in return programs especially in the Balkan region and in Kosovo to find other experts for information exchange, support and networking. This task was more difficult than expected as many organisations contacted did not respond, so the con- 12 OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

13 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT ference is of special value concerning the establishing and extension of the expert-network. In a second part Mr. Zlatar talked about the work of Slovene Philanthropy concerning unaccompanied minors, who flee their country due to poverty, armed conflicts or fear of personal persecution. Slovene Philanthropy has been engaged in taking care of those children since 1994 and is the national co-ordinator for the Separated Children in Europe Program and the only organisation in Slovenia involved in dealing with refugees who are under the age of 18. Mr Zlatar also stressed that the benevolence of the child must be considered first of all and during all phases of return, also considering that children have specific needs and a specific perspective that have to be taken into account, varying to those of adults, like the lengths of time the child was absent from the home country, age etc. Slovene Philanthropy thus provides these children not only with information and listens to them but also accompanies them every step of the return process. Mr. Zlatar is concerned though that the Slovenian government often hesitates to allow minors to stay, as Slovenia in many cases is seen only as the country of entrance to other European Union countries. Questions: I am sorry to hear that the rights of children in Slovenia are not as respected as they should be. [ ] Also I am sorry to hear that your organization and others do not have access to these children in the detention centres. This is not only the case in Slovenia but also in other countries. Also in Kosovo it is not unusual to send away children to earn money for the family. I do not have any solution for this problem, but we can work on an international level and maybe find a solution together. We try to lobby and make the government listen to us, but there is not always positive response from the government, partly because Slovenia is not the children s final destination. I have to stress though that the country the children first set foot on is the one responsible for them. In Switzerland we have cases like these too. I like that in your presentation you showed the reality, and whether we like it or not- it is like this. In Switzerland or Slovenia or other counties, there are always gaps in the system and we have to work hard to get as close to the standards as possible. I would like to know what was the children s goal or final destination coming to Slovenia? It is often trafficking or do they come by themselves? There is not so much trafficking, but rather the children have relatives in, say, Italy and want to go there for work as their final destination entering through Slovenia. What about those that are victims of trafficking? Do you return them or integrate them? There are special organizations dealing with children that are suspected to be victims of trafficking. They receive shelter in Slovenia; but also we do not know of any cases from Kosovo. ANICA MIKUŠ-KOS, SLOVENE PHILANTHROPY; LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA The psychological and psychosocial situation of returnee children and youth Anica Mikuš-Kos in her presentation emphasized the very difficult situation children find themselves in upon return and during their (re)integration into Kosovo society. There is the primary source of traumatization through the (armed) conflict, later living as a refugee in a foreign country, very often feeling unwanted and humiliated. Return in this sense causes re-traumatization as the children upon arrival in the home country meet practical and emotional difficulties, especially those that have OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ

14 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International already been born in the host country: language barriers, no electricity or water or other adaptation to lower standards of living, adaptation in school etc. Many are made to feel guilty by others as their families had left the country and fled the conflict whilst others had stayed and fought for their homeland. Many are also disappointed to get back to a free country they imagined would be different. In many cases the children also meet with the facts and places of atrocities they had managed to forget or they had not known about, which also causes new trauma. Furthermore the family ties and relationships within the family, which under normal circumstances would be a support network, have changed through the traumatization of some or all family members. Mrs. Mikuš-Kos stresses that the positive impact of psychiatrists and psychologists is small and individual, so that we need other means of transporting psycho-sociological help. One of the solutions she offers is the training of teachers as mediators in this process, strengthening the role of the schools, as they are the most valuable medium through which it is possible to reach out to parents and children alike, covering wider geographical areas and creating a broader sphere of influence. She thinks that this conference will be another organ for the promotion of psycho-social help for traumatized children through school. MICHAEL POSSMAYER, DANISH REFUGEE COUNCIL (DRC); PRISTINA, DENMARK-KO- SOVO NGO Assisted Mandatory Return Management The Danish Refugee Council- DRC operating in 30 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa provides assistance for returnees, information, medical and psychosocial support as well as reintegration measures. For the DRC it is important to stress that concerning return the DRC is not a party to the use of force, with mandatory return being the preferable non-voluntary option. Mr. Possmayer explained the concerns and considerations considering the assistance in a non-voluntary return process, including pro and contra, as for example the right of governments to return rejected asylum seekers vs. possibly legitimising forced return?. In assisting returnees the DRC uses the following guidelines among others: the sustainability of return with positive incentives rather than sanctions, holistic approach, respect of human rights and reintegration as well as monitoring. The DRC s success factor in their work with refugees are among others the emphasis on pre-departure counselling and information ( Go and See ), long-term support and monitoring and a report with Recommendations for the Return and Reintegration of Rejected Asylum Seekers Lessons Learned from Returns to Kosovo (see also In assisting returnees the DRC is also taking the challenge to initiate dialogue between governments and to contribute to the capacity building in Kosovo. 14 OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

15 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT Questions: You talked about two types of return: voluntary and not voluntary return. I want to know about those that return voluntarily: a.) How do they decide that they want to come back? B.) what are your strategies in assisting them in their decision making? This is a very important question. We are quite successfully assisting those, for example Roma in Serbia, Macedonia etc. that have made the truly voluntary decision to return, to come back. We have information for those wanting to return from Denmark about the likeliness that they can stay in Denmark and about the assisting package they will receive. Many families decided then that their chances were best if they went back. I call this mandatory and not voluntary. I think that people from here living in the host country know the situation here in Kosovo- so how high is the percentage of those that really want to go back 1-2%? I think that people only have a general picture about Kosovo but I do not think they know how this will affect their personal situation. So it is important for them to have people coming from Kosovo to explain to them in detail about the various aspects of the situation Kosovo. People that refuse to enter the program sometimes have legal counsels that tell them that they can/should try to stay in Denmark. We only work with them when they have already been rejected. As long as they are still in the asylum seeking process we do not intervene. How long does your reintegration assistance go for? What are the criteria for helping forced returnees? We have a 18 month project running, so for those that returned in 2006 the assistance is coming to an end now. For all returnees we have vocational programs working together with our partner APPK. EWA JONSSON, SWEDISH RED CROSS; SWEDEN Information Network for Return to Northern Iraq, Serbia and Kosovo European Red Cross Return Initiative (ERCRI) The Red Cross Movement has long been dealing with migration and return outside of Europe but within Europe/EU these challenges are new for the Red Cross. The ERCRI sees the capacity building of networking within various Red Cross initiatives (international and national societies of the Red Cross), information sharing and finding those that could be expert-partners in return as its main goals. Specification has also been made on the following, with reference to the using of the terms by the Danish Refugee Council: Voluntary return means that people actually have a choice, meaning that they OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ

16 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International could have stayed in the hosting country, but choose to go back to the home country. Other returns are voluntary-mandatory or forced. The Swedish Red Cross has experience in return-projects, first individual return on ad hoc basis, later on in cooperation with the RC Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina , as well as through an Open Forum on Return in The Swedish Red Cross has been working in Northern Iraq, Kosovo and Serbia. Mrs. Jonsson also stated that Sweden today has a slight increase in people seeking for asylum coming from Kosovo, with a short decrease right after the declaration of independence but since recently the numbers are rising again. She says that he majority (99%) will be rejected. Also there is plausible risk for a severe humanitarian situation upon heir return. Most people that get in contact with the Swedish Red Cross ask for assistance for staying in Sweden and we have staff in all regions of Sweden for giving legal advice about the procedures of asylum seeking and returning. Mrs. Jonsson also stressed the willingness of the Swedish Red Cross to especially prepare children better for the return, but that it is difficult to attract children and parents alike to talking about their return as a preparation measure. The Swedish Red Cross sees is primarily role in the overall Balkan return organisation and institution platform to fill existing gaps rather than taking over work from others. Questions. In Germany Kosovars can stay, should go back, but we have special terms if they have been in the country for eight years, speak the language. Is there something similar in Sweden? No unfortunately we do not have anything like this now, although we did before. We have heard information regarding the numbers that are seeking for asylum in Sweden and those that have to go back from Germany. I hope that we will be talking to the local Kosovo government about this, because if we do not coordinate these processes this will eventually have a negative impact on Kosovo society and economy. We need to be realistic when talking about people needing to return from Germany plus those from other countries. Is family reunification still an issue in Sweden and do you have any current figures? I do not have any figures, but the laws on family reunifications are still generous. 16 OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

17 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT RAMUSH LEKAJ, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRE FOR THE PROMOTION OF EDUCATION QPEA, FERIZAJ/PRISTINA, KOSOVO AHMET IMERI, PROJECT COORDINATOR, MAGURA, KOSOVO The Magura Modell Teachers in Kosovo have many different roles and tasks, but for lack of expertise, teachers do not know how to identify and moreover support traumatized children, as very often adults themselves have to deal with traumas. So QPEA came up with the idea of counselling centres for children and parents. The organisation had to make sure that the centres are accessible to poor families in rural areas as well. They provide the services not only to Albanian families but to all communities and for those that have returned from host countries. QPEA also helps through teachers seminars for psychosocial training and through publishing necessary and relevant literature and expert knowledge, which is accessible for free to the teachers in their office in Ferizaj. (Ramush Lekaj; QPEA) MAGURA provides reintegration to schools for the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. There is a mixed population in Magura, Medvec and Dobraja e Vogel. QPEA, Anica Mikus-Koš and Emir Kuljuh, gave the teachers an idea of how to deal with the issues traumatization and retraumatization of children and adults, and how to approach the communities, parents and local authorities. The initiative also involves young volunteers. The initiative sees the integration of Roma children in the respective communities as a success, and Mr. Imeri points out that for the first time also children from Ashkali and Egyptian families could be integrated: the children from the mentioned minorities are as much traumatized as Albanian children are - they do not hide anything from each other and they all learn and play together. Children with special needs are also taken care of and provided for seven days a week. (Ahmet Imeri, APPK) Questions: In what languages are multiethnic classes conducted? We need to understand that these minorities have a special way of living, and that it was even hard to bring them to the classes. We started off with teaching in Albanian, a decision which is - I can say this openly - political. We try hard and work with the capacities we have. I am very impressed with the work that has been done. I am happy when I see children like these, my own children go to mixed classes. Last year there was a project for Waldorf schools in Kosovo provided through US aid. The children in Kosovo are so eager to learn other languages. Even though OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ

18 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International we do not have Serbs or Bosnians in our personal neighbourhood I can see that other Albanian children want to learn this language. Comment by Ramush Lekaj: The ministry of education is on the way of planning a curriculum for the Roma language in schools. Final comment by Ahmet Imeri: I would like to ask all of you to come and see for yourself and not to only trust the papers! BEDRI XHAFA; APPK-JOB PLACEMENT, PRISTINA, KOSOVO Job integration of Returnees The Employment Promotion Agency in Kosovo, is known in Kosovo as the academy for jobs, and has been working since March Its work is based on the reintegration of people in the labour market and thus provides various employment measures for different target groups. This includes counselling, induction training, professional training and qualification, job placement, business start-up, support to economic cooperation and development and special programs in cooperation with other organisations and institutions. Trainings include teaching modules in the sphere of computer skills/it, administration, sales and marketing, foreign languages etc. Most importantly APK only provides training for jobs that are requested by the labour market. Questions: I am impressed with your work as I work in this field and know how hard it is. By our own experience, we can say that when the father as the supplier of the family gets employment, a new dynamic evolves within the family. We also always try to involve the whole family. Having someone in the family being employed means a lot and changes a lot. And although the programmes are for free for our clients, of course they have a price, and so the programmes have various generous donors. You have Germany as a partner, why do they not open, say, a factory and provide real jobs, rather than something like internships? For a year now we work in close cooperation with German and Kosovar companies. We make sure they get the information they need when they want to employ people in Kosovo. Just yesterday we could provide jobs for 200 people seeking work in a Swiss company. You have mentioned cooperation with governmental institutions as our ministry is cooperating with you. I would like to congratulate you on your work and I can say that life long learning is reality for you and your work. I can say that your organization is more successful than the centres set up by the ministry of labour. GREGOIRE CRETTAZ/CLAIRE POUTEAUX, SWISS MIGRATION ATTACHE OFFICE/IOM BERN; KOSOVO/BERN Assisted Voluntary Return from Switzerland to the Western Balkans Speaking about return Mr Crettaz focuses on voluntary return. The Kosovo Diaspora in Switzerland consists of approx. 150,000 people, with being Kosovar-Swiss and being in the return process. Focus is also laid on minorities, who are as such seen as especially vulnerable. Switzerland expects to have a return/readmission agreement wit Kosovo and will thus provide support in migration management, return and reintegration assistance and special assistance projects for Roma/Ash- 18 OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

19 Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International CONFERENCE REPORT kali/egyptian minorities. (Gregoire Crettaz; Embassy of Switzerland) The IOM Bern program differs from the program of the Danish Refugee Council, as IOM Bern does not know about the stage prospective returnees are in (rejected, asylum seeking ) for IOM Bern it is only important to know that the participation in the return program is voluntary. The assistance granted is similar to other programs, and so Ms. Pouteaux only stressed the fact that with IOM Bern medical checks and medical care and preparation before the return is extensive. IOM Bern can also facilitate programs for children and unaccompanied minors, and try to provide language classes for those returning to their home countries, if they have already stayed in Switzerland for a long time. In its programs the IOM Bern works closely together with the Swiss Federal office for Migration. Their IOM Bern provides counselling and preparation in Switzerland, travel assistance, financial reintegration assistance, housing assistance, support for small budget businesses as well as medical and psychological care. The sustainability of the support is visible through the following numbers: 60% are satisfied with their own situation while reasons for discontent are quite individual; 90% consider the reintegration assistance as very helpful, around 805 are still using the housing assistance and 60% of the business projects are still generating an income, while only 10% of the returnees remigrated. (Claire Pouteaux; IOM Bern) Questions: Who is paying the bills for IOM? The Swiss government? Yes. How do you measure the sustainability and success of the programmes? It is now standard to interview the returnees shortly after the return and then one year later as a meaning of monitoring. LULEZIM BUTOLLI, BALKAN SUNFLOWERS, KOSOVO Community Based Education and Sense of Belonging Balkan Sunflowers is a Learning centre network and a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Pristina. Its target groups are children and communities with an insufficient amount of space for the individual child in the schools and classes. Through their learning center programmes Balkan Sunflowers work through educational programmes, and through coordinators and tutors that work directly with the kids. A special project is the language club, where children are helped to speak either Albanian or Serbian, which are the languages required at school. The organisation also provides homework-assistance and peer tutoring, where the youth work with kids, and through this develop their own skills and use their own potential working with the community for the community. One of the overall goals is also to reach out to the parents, convey the message of the programmes and the work of Balkan Sunflowers, sensitise them and explain the programmes motives. A minority of the clientele are children from returnee families, who often have to face discrimination and special hardship through other children. Balkan Sunflowers thus wants to strengthen their self-confidence, helping them to participate in community activities and helping them to share a sense of belonging with the other children of the community. OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ

20 CONFERENCE REPORT Expert Conference RETURN and IMPACT. The Challenge of Good Practice in International 19th October 2008 Day 3 Results from the Working groups Presentations of Recommendations The situation in Kosovo is still difficult, due to damaged infrastructure, unemployment, the failing of health system (people buy medicine privately if at all) - there are no capacities to provide social security or even just welfare services for all the poor families in Kosovo; and there is still as lack of long-term economic investment in Kosovo. The desperate social situation therefore calls for a twoway approach based on harmonization: It is difficult to have people return voluntarily, so we think it is important that the hosting country and the country of origin cooperate to improve conditions. Economic (financial/material) packages should be directed more effectively in the area where needed: if for example the host country returns a certain amount of people to one region, additional working places should be provided in this region/community first. Also if a group of returnees has worked in a factory in the host country, it makes sense to use their acquired skills and invest in a similar business to employ them in their region of living in Kosovo. Concerning social/health care/insurance, a more inviting environment has to be created to motivate people also to return to formerly troubled regions. Psychosocial programs for children and youth are needed so that they will be more integrated into society. When are governments ready to take over? In the prospect of handover of many to all responsibilities in various fields, including return, to the Kosovo government and Kosovo institutions, capacity building of the authorities should be the basis before the Kosovo institutions can take over full responsibility. Return should be linked reintegration This issue has already been raised many times by various organisations but as we have heard in this conference. But we also know from our work experience that successful reintegration is the key-factor of an overall successful return process. Provision of adequate information to returnees Two core issues concerning the provision of information were worked out:»» The establishing of a counsellor (migration attaché) in the host countries for host governments and migrants to contact; The provision of basic information for returnees upon arrival through ONE information office networking with the government and NGOs, providing information about schooling, health insurance, pension benefits etc. as people are often lost upon arrival and do not know which office/organisation/institution provides them with which kind of information/assistance?! Setting up of database for basic demographic information: Current situation Kosovo (diseases, demographics, education) is unknown. In addition to this research studies should be financed, helping to provide data and statistics for a better understanding of the overall situation in Kosovo. In this way various programmes could further be optimised. 20 OMEGA HEALTH CARE CENTER GRAZ 2009

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