UNHCR’s presence in Montenegro was established in 1992. Ever since then, UNHCR has contributed more than 60 million USD in supporting the Government of Montenegro (GoM) and has provided assistance to some 140,000 refugees and internally displaced persons.
Today, UNHCR Montenegro supports the GoM in finding durable solutions for refugees from the former Yugoslavia, namely those displaced by the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia between 1992 and 1995, as well as to those who fled to Montenegro from Kosovo in 1998-99. For them, durable solutions mean either integration into Montenegrin society or voluntary return to their home country. UNHCR also assists the GoM in strengthening Montenegro’s national asylum system, and in reducing and preventing the incidence of statelessness.
Populations of concern
The three populations of primary concern to UNHCR include refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons.
Refugees from the former Yugoslavia
UNHCR is mandated to lead international action to protect refugees and safeguard their rights and well-being. As of 30 June 2015, it is estimated that more than 6,000 refugees from the former Yugoslavia in Montenegro are still seeking durable solutions. These are refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, as well as people displaced by the Kosovo conflict, many of whom are Roma residing in two camps in Konik on the outskirts of the capital city of Podgorica. UNHCR currently provides support to the GoM in implementing its Strategy for Durable Solutions of Issues regarding Displaced and Internally Displaced Persons in Montenegro, with Special Emphasis on the Konik Area, which has given an opportunity to refugees from the former Yugoslavia to apply for the legal status of foreigner with permanent residence, which is a prerequisite for their local integration and access to basic rights such as health care, legal employment and education.
UNHCR Representation in Montenegro assists refugees through legal assistance and social welfare programmes. In partnership with donors, housing assistance has been extended through the Regional Housing Programme (RHP), whose implementation is under way. Montenegro’s Country Housing Project aims to meet the housing needs of 6,063 refugees (1,177 refugee households) falling into the category of most vulnerable, especially those living in informal collective centres. The 27 million EUR project envisages the construction of 907 housing units, including apartments and prefabricated houses in Nikšić, Berane and Podgorica (Konik), as well as an elderly home in Pljevlja.
At the same time, UNHCR facilitates voluntary repatriation of refugees to Kosovo, particularly by providing up-to-date information to those who wish to return to their place of origin. To this end, UNHCR, organizes go-and-see visits for interested refugees to Kosovo with the assistance of the GoM and NGO partners, so that these people can examine the situation back home and make informed choices with respect to voluntary return.
Within its mandate, UNHCR provides assistance to Montenegro in strengthening its asylum system. In particular, UNHCR supports the GoM in building capacities for processing asylum applications, improving reception conditions for asylum seekers and establishing a protection-sensitive entry system.
Compared to the size of its population, Montenegro received a large number of asylum seekers during the period 2010-2014. In 2013 Montenegro saw the highest number of asylum seekers in its history, as 3,554 persons, mainly from Middle East countries, Africa and Asia, applied for asylum in the country. Recognition rates, however, remain low. Overall, the high influx of asylum seekers continues to pose further challenges to Montenegro’s asylum system and its compliance with international standards.
UNHCR Representation in Montenegro also provides support to people who are stateless or who are at risk of becoming stateless. By not having any nationality, such people are denied basic human rights, including the right to medical care, education and legal employment.
UNHCR's strategy for the prevention and reduction of statelessness focuses on ensuring the implementation of national legislation concerning procedures for late registration and naturalization. At the moment, there is no mechanism in place to systematically identify and register stateless persons or persons at risk of statelessness in Montenegro. UNHCR continuously supports the work of the Government in identifying and assisting those who have declared they are without a nationality during the 2011 Census (4,312 persons), and especially those who declared themselves stateless (486) after the Ministry of Interior’s public call in 2014.
At present, UNHCR is conducting a global campaign named #IBelong, which is aimed at ending statelessness in the next ten years. The campaign seeks to collect 10 million signatures for the 10 million people around the world who are considered stateless and thus urge world governments to tackle this legal limbo within the next decade. UNHCR Montenegro is actively promoting the campaign by organizing public signings of the Open Letter.
UN Eco House
Stanka Dragojevića bb
81000 Podgorica, Montenegro
Tel: +382 20 447 423
Fax: +382 20 447 435