Displaced Serbians accommodate incoming Syrian Refugees

Where Wars Collide: Inside a Serbian Center Home to Refugees Old and New
By Sara Elizabeth Williams

November 23, 2015 | 10:41 am
Afghani teenager Khalil squinted in the winter Balkan sunshine and winced as he flexed his left bicep, red and inflamed where a police dog bit him a few days back, in Bulgaria. Across a muddy field, an older woman in a bandana watched warily as she swept a porch. She had seen his kind come and go, and today would be no different.

Like most of the other hundred or so young men re-tying shoes and adjusting bandages, coats and rucksacks at the refugee transit center on the outskirts of the Serbian capital, Khalil was bound for Europe.

Few people on the refugee highway running through Belgrade want to stay: of the 335,000 who have registered with the UN refugee agency in Serbia on their way through the country this year, just 30 have filed claims for asylum.

Bulgaria had been brutal and Khalil had no wish to stay in eastern Europe. “The police robbed me,” he told VICE News. “They took 70 Euros and my smartphone. I have no money now and no phone.”
smail, a 26-year-old father of three girls, worked as a translator with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. He was determined not to leave, but after militants came to his house and threatened to kill him, he had no choice.

“It’s not true that there is no war in Afghanistan,” he told VICE News. “It’s not only the Taliban but also American bombs. There are 100 groups.”

Ismail hoped to set up in Europe and send for his wife and daughters in future. After seeing his country torn apart and endangering himself and his family by working with Westerners, he believes they all deserve a new start.

“If the US and NATO will not bring peace to the country, what should we do?” he asked.
Khalil and Ismail have dreams of a better life. For other residents at the center in Krnjaca, about half an hour from Belgrade, it’s a little different: this collection of spartan barracks-style dormitory blocks is home.

More than eighty people forced from their homes from the 1990s Balkan conflicts still live at Krnjaca, sleeping in its bunk beds, dining in its stale-smelling canteen, and raising their Serbia-born children as perpetual refugees.

The current migration epidemic, in which more than 650,000 people have flooded into Europe fleeing war in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, or poverty and brutal regimes in countries such as Eritrea and Congo, is not the continent’s first refugee crisis.

More than two million people were displaced during the Balkan conflicts, a series of wars and insurgencies between 1991 and 2002 that saw the former Yugoslavia broken up and parts of eastern Europe ravaged by ethnic cleansing, genocide and other war crimes.

The Krnjaca facility was one of 700 so-called “collective centers” built in Serbia at the height of the crisis to house refugees and internally displaced people. Most have been closed down, but a handful remain, and are now seeing past and present humanitarian crises become entangled.

The Serbian government, a poor country plagued by accusations of corruption and committed to an austerity budget, is proving as unable to help its new refugees as it was the old.It can stretch to just 60 euros per person per month in welfare, and doesn’t have the money to build new housing for its oldest refugees, let alone the new arrivals.

The Krnjaca center feels like it has been forgotten by the world, surrounded by a scrubby wood, with rubbish and discarded masonry piled on either side of the road by which the refugees arrive.

Separate accommodation blocks for men, women, and families each follow a cookie-cutter design: bunk beds, a communal room tacked over with art, ageing bathrooms with wet floors, and dripping faucets.

The Serbian government opened the center to international refugees in August 2014. According to Marija Bojic, a government employee who works at Krnjaca, “Since it opened, asylum seekers are coming in different waves constantly.”
Managers say 6,000 refugees and migrants have passed through Krnjaca so far this year. With the rarest of exceptions, they stay just 24 hours. And so in ever-repeating cycles, the refugees from the past and the present come into the same orbit, sharing a canteen, an ageing collection of playground equipment, and a wifi network named “Asylum.”

After 20 years at Krnjaca, those displaced by old wars are adapting to a new routine: twice-daily buses dropping off foreign strangers and stragglers coming up the approach road, shouts and laughter in different languages.

Beyond language and cultural differences, Krnjaca’s two groups of residents are on the opposite sides of hope and it’s this that separates them as much as anything else. The possibilities of an endless search for refuge, of a life stopped and never restarted, of joblessness and economic failure, of children born stateless and forever remaining that way – these are the elephants in the room at Krnjaca.
Officials say Serbia’s Commissariat for Refugees and Migration is working provide build houses for its long-displaced families in a village nearby, and people are gradually being moved on — at one time the center housed hundreds of Balkans conflicts refugees and IDPs — but at a snail’s pace. And so the 85 longterm residents remain at Krnjaca, living in a limbo that threatens to stretch to two decades: on 14 December 2015, it will have been 20 years since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement that put an end to the Bosnian War.

Across a sludgy creek and a stand of trees is the canteen, nearly empty between the rush of young men grabbing a breakfast before leaving, and the usual lunch crowd of long-term residents. A trio of blond Kosovar children, some of the center’s youngest residents, have breakfast as canteen staff and some older residents look on. The children were born in Serbia to refugee parents. Without the jobs and social mobility to become self-sufficient, they have remained at Krnjaca.

Nearby, 57-year-old Dragiša waited for a meal in the lull time between shifts of internationals. An ethnic Serb from Croatia, he has been at Krnjaca for 20 years. He says he doesn’t hold the newcomers’ circumstances against them.

“What can you do about politics?” he shrugged. “I can’t say anything. I’ve seen it all. Everyone is running from troubles.”
At the center’s entrance the bus is being loaded, taking Khalil and his companions to Belgrade and then north to the Croatian border and the promised land: Europe. For the lucky ones, there will be welfare, jobs, and a future as European citizens.

For others, like Dragiša and other long-displaced citizens of a country that no longer exists, there will likely be disappointment as jobs fail to materialize, social exclusion limits opportunities, and the money to build a life long dreamed of proves elusive.

As the bus rolls away from Krnjaca, the cycle begins again.
Follow Sara Elizabeth Williams on Twitter: @saraewilliams

Kashmiri Pandits – Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs

Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs, PoK Refugees
By Fayaz Wani
March 24, 2015
SRI NAGAR: The recommendation by a Parliamentary Panel to grant minority status to migrant Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in Jammu and Kashmir has led to strong resentment from Sikhs and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees, who have warned of a strong agitation.
“The recommendation by Parliamentary Panel is in contravention to the guidelines set by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as far as classification of minorities is concerned,” All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina told reporters here on Monday.
He said the NCM had made it clear that there were six minority communities in the country — Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. “Recommending minority status to the Pandits is against the procedure laid down by the NCM. Granting minority status to Pandits would upset the whole equilibrium in the society,” said Raina.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its report on rehabilitation of migrant KPs had urged the J&K government to look into the demand for granting minority status to the Pandits, who migrated from the Valley after the eruption of militancy in 1989.

“J&K has a special status in the Indian Constitution so the state government should look into the demand of the Pandits for conferring on them minority status keeping in mind their pitiable condition,” the panel has stated.
The J&K government has recently revealed that 37,128 Kashmiri Pandit families had migrated from Kashmir following the outbreak of militancy in 1989.
Raina warned that if the Central government went ahead with granting minority status to Kashmiri Pandits then the Sikhs would have no option but to come out on to the streets and stage strong protests in support of their demands.
“We have suffered a lot in the past and we cannot live with it forever. Justice has to be done and there cannot be any compromise in this regard. We will launch an agitation so that justice is done and injustice is rooted out,” he said.
The APSCC chairman said the National Minority Act needed to be implemented in letter and spirit in Jammu and Kashmir so that the Sikh community gets the privileges that they were entitled to.
Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, an organisation for PoK refugees, said the Centre’s move to grant minority status to KPs was unacceptable.
“The Parliamentary Committee recommended minority status to Kashmiri Pandits by looking at their pitiable condition but the panel has not been moved by the miserable plight of PoK refugees, who are living in gloom since 1947,” he said.
The PoK refugees migrated to the state from Pok after 1947. Chuni said Kashmiri Pandits had their safe homes in the state while PoK refugees and Chammb refugees had lost their homes, land, everything and were forced to live in despondent conditions. “We will oppose tooth and nail granting of minority status to Pandits. We will mobilise people and launch an agitation if the Pandits are granted the status,” Chuni said, adding they would also approach the courts if the Centre went against the people’s aspirations and provided minority status to Pandits.

Syrian Refugees in Turkey- Exploratory post

Exploring policy framework for the Syrian refugees in Turkey.
What has the Turkish government done, so far to respond to the refugee crisis, which policies are in the making?
How are the policies different than policies for other refugees in Turkey?
What are the social dynamics between Syrian refugees and Turkish local communities<?

Please feel free to share your insights.

Sri Lankan Refugees in India – Durable Solutions

Durable Solutions for Sri Lankan Refugees in India

A Group representing 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees put forward a document explaining durable solutions for their settlement and concerns of challenges likely to be faced during the repatriation.
Recognising repatriation is one of their solutions, the document prepared by Chennai-based Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, one of the major agencies in India for Sri Lankan refugees, said rebuilding their homeland is the most durable solution for most of the refugees other than options such as staying in Tamil Nadu and emigrating to a third country.
The document comes in the wake of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s tour, who arrived Sunday in New Delhi — his maiden foreign trip after assuming charge last month.
The document titled “Asserting the Right to Seek Durable Solutions, the Voice of the Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in the Camps of India”, was prepared after several rounds of consultations among refugees, who live in 110 camps in Tamil Nadu, over the last nine months. It suggests three durable solutions: A safe voluntary repatriation to Sri Lanka with an assurance of securing a livelihood, local integration of refugee community through an appropriate agreement allowing refugees to enjoy all basic rights available to Indian citizens, and a third country settlement for those who find no other guarantee, safety and security in Sri Lanka or India.
A set of four documents, already submitted before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, warned that any delay in political action to facilitate refugees to choose voluntarily the option of returning to Sri Lanka will aggravate the ordeal of being a refugee in Indian camps.
While discussions between India and Sri Lanka are already underway on how to handle the refugee issue, the document suggests the signing of an MoU to ensure a smooth and safe repatriation. The document also suggests a dozen recommendations to the Sri Lankan government, including the implementation of constitutional amendments to ensure the civil and political rights, and resettling the remaining Internally Displaced People , among others.
The document also says that India should take some decisions immediately such as the announcement of a generous package of assistance for refugees to return to Sri Lanka, granting work permit enabling Lankan refugees to be employed in private sector, providing educational loan for children and granting Indian citizenship to Lankan refugees married to Indian citizens.

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/document-on-tamil-refugees-asks-india-lanka-to-assist-repatriation/
Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai

Retrieved Feb 16, 2015

Sudan Conflict derails kids’ education

Analysis by Sudha Rajput
Due to the ongoing conflict in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas of Sudan, school-aged children have lost the opportunity to complete their basic education (similar to many situations of protracted displacement). Schools have been closed, and those that have remained open, transporting kids to the schools has been a challenge.

Consequently children’s educational years have been diverted to tending to domestic duties of collecting firewood and fetching water for the family. Some of the students that fled their villages during the conflict have been able to return, but many face an unknown future.

Those wanting to return are finding that the school capacity cannot accommodate them and those who can be accommodated find themselves either too young or too old to fit in with the given class curriculum.
In addition, there are issues of integrating the kids back into the classroom, who suffer from trauma of having escaped the violence to seek refuge in bushes and mountains. The experience of shelling and the conflict in general continues to haunt them. The returning IDP students need special support to address their psychological trauma and to catch up with what they had missed.

UNICEF, has built new classrooms at the school to accommodate the new arrivals and to provide a friendly environment for all the students. Challenge remains to have all those displaced children return to school.
Full story at:
By Eman Eltigani
Feb 10, 2015

Taking care of Ukraine’s IDPs:

Violence and armed conflict has forced thousands of people to seek safety in neighboring countries and within Ukraine, thousands have been killed and wounded. people in Ukraine continue to be forced from their homes by violence after seven months of fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine. Many organizations have partnered with local churches, such as the Aid Center in Zaporizhzhia, in an effort to support those in desperate needs. Such centers are helping people deal with the trauma of displacement and in establishing stable living conditions. Since the opening of the center, seven months ago, about 200 people a day are using the services. The center plans to expand into medical and legal services. About 40,000 had fled to seek safety in Zaporizhzhia, some from Donetsk, more than 100 miles away. The challenge remains helping those who were not able to leave their places and continue to struggle midst violence and destruction. These people are living in poverty and some with disabilities.

See full story at:
January 6, 2015

Settlement of Displaced Kashmiri Pandits – plan with trouble

Settlement of Displaced Kashmiri Pandits – the plan spells trouble already.
Dec 1, 2014
In India, the longstanding mission of Bharatiya Janata Party regarding the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits is becoming a national priority. Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Minister Mr. Omar Abdullah, has apparently detailed the plan that calls for allocating 840 hectares (approximately 2075 Acres ) of land in various parts of the State, for the construction of securitized “satellite colonies” for those forcibly displaced in 1989, due to the rise of militancy in Kashmir Valley.
The noble goal of resettling those displaced, two decades ago, seems good in theory, but what is wrong is the following:
Any plan to bring back members of any ethnic community, especially those forced out by members of another ethnic group, should focus on reconciliation and co-existence of both communities in the new setting.
The plan to house the returning families into the newly built securitized colonies, defeats the purpose of reconciliation and overcoming of hostilities. Such a plan is not a solution, but rather it will make the returning families a target of renewed attacks. Separate settlement exclusively meant to house this community is encouraging communalism, a form of structural violence.
In addition, those returning will never enjoy the feeling of having ‘come home’ to their ancestral lands. The unintended consequences of such a plan are enormous, just like the consequences of having kept them in the Mini Township in Jagti camps. The narratives of my research participants suggests that having been isolated from the mainstream Jammu had deprived the displaced community from socio-economic opportunities, enjoyed by the Jammu residents.
Sudha Rajput
Dec 1, 2014

Kashmiri Pandit’s Cultural Demands for Return to the Valley

Return of Kashmiri Pandits and the importance of the ‘Shrine Bill’.

A former separatist leader, in the struggle to make the Kashmir Valley, an Islamic place, shows change of heart.
He tells, the Kashmiri Pandits, forced out of the Valley in 1989, that they form an “essential part of Kashmir’ and that their return “will fill the vacuum in the Kashmiriyat”. He admits that KPs have lost their ‘identity and culture’ and recognizes that “apathy of successive governments had multiplied their problems”.

“Kashmiri Pandits have been demanding Shrine Bill for a long time, but no heed is given to this important demand and only hollow promises of their return is made every time by political parties,” he said and added that shrine bill is the fundamental right of KPs.

November 24, 2014

IDPs in Ukraine – estimated 970,000 displaced

In Donetsk, homeless Ukrainians loathe Kiev government
By AFP | 15 Nov, 2014, 06.37PM IST
DONETSK: Despite living in a tiny cellar in Donetsk for more than three months, Sergei is not complaining about the frequent shelling or lack of running water. Instead, he saves his fury for his own country – Ukraine.

“It’s the Ukrainian army that has done all this damage,” the 56-year-old former miner rages, standing in front of the dusty mattress he sleeps on as his wife watches with pursed lips.

“The government doesn’t pay our pensions,” he adds, his voice rising. “I am Ukrainian but Ukraine has done me so much wrong.”

Along with dozens of others, Sergei and three members of his family are living beneath what used to be a cultural centre in Donetsk, the eastern Ukrainian stronghold of pro-Moscow separatists pitched against Ukrainian forces.

They are among some 970,000 people who the UN estimates have been displaced – most over the border into Russia – by seven months of fighting in Ukraine’s east.

As the conflict enters its first, harsh winter, aid agencies are stepping up efforts to help the roughly 460,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) to cope amid a nominal ceasefire which is frequently violated.

Many of those living in the cellars with Sergei share his disgust at their home country and rely on pro-Russian rebels to help them.

Lyubov Domianova recalls an outbreak of shelling on Wednesday from which she sheltered in the room where she lives with her two daughters, grandson and some 20 other people.

“It was terrifying,” she says simply. The 62-year-old is grateful to the separatists of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic who she says have brought her food and aid.

As for the Ukrainian army, she fears that they will “come and kill us.”

Elsewhere in the city, Tatiana Samarina has found shelter with two others in a student room after leaving her home near Donetsk airport, scene of fierce exchanges between Ukrainian forces and rebels.
“They (Ukraine) can forget Donbass. We were never with them. In Donetsk, we support the separatists,” she says.

Their space is sparsely furnished — three beds, three chairs, a table and a wardrobe — but the rebels provide free food and clothes.

Around 50 rooms in the pink eight-storey building are reserved for displaced people.

Marina Shirishilova, 26, has lived there with her husband and children since being evacuated from their home in July.

She says she spends her days keeping the children occupied. The family survives on 50 hryvnias (2.5 euros, $3) per day. But Marina is hopeful of receiving a grant promised to her by the rebels following the birth of her third child, a tiny newborn who sleeps peacefully in a crib in the corner of the room.

“Do you know when we will get the money for the baby?” she asks, clutching the child’s identity papers.

Nov 16, 2014

Nation-Building lessons from Kosovo Experience