Stronger institutional response needed to address problem of internally displaced in Serbia, say Belgrade conference participants

Other News Materials 30 March 2007 11:34

( OSCE ) - A stronger and more co-ordinated institutional response is needed to provide full respect for human rights to Serbia's 206,879 internally displaced persons (IDP) from Kosovo. This was the main conclusion of a conference that ended in Belgrade.

The event was organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the OSCE Mission to Serbia, and the NGO Praxis.

" Serbia lacks a more comprehensive and harmonized institutional response to the situation of IDPs," said Hannelore Valier, the Head of the OSCE Mission's Democratization Department.

"The OSCE Mission and its partners work closely to foster the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that will guarantee the rights of internally displaced people."

The paper "Analysis of the Situation of Internally Displaced Persons from Kosovo in Serbia - Law and Practice", presented at the conference, will provide the Serbian authorities with a set of recommendations. It identifies gaps in the legal system and proposes concrete solutions to alleviate everyday problems of the IDPs. The aim of the paper is to ensure that internally displaced people are guaranteed effective access to basic civil, political, social and economic rights, such as a right to housing, health protection, and legal documentation.

"The UNHCR is advocating the implementation of norms, standards and principles of international human rights and humanitarian law," said Lennart Kotsalainen, the UNHCR Representative in Serbia. "We are ready to assist the Government and other stakeholders in this process as we have been doing for the past 15 years in the former Yugoslavia."

The report also focuses on the situation of certain vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of IDPs, such as Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptians. It also touches upon the problem of persons originating from Kosovo who are being returned from Western Europe on the basis of readmission agreements.

Internal displacement is a wide-spread phenomenon in the OSCE region affecting around 3,000,000 people in 13 countries. The OSCE emphasizes the importance of prevention by addressing the root causes of displacement and involuntary migration. The UNHCR provides multi-faceted support to IDPs worldwide and in Serbia in particular: from immediate humanitarian assistance and improvement of living conditions to provision of free legal assistance and advocacy.