Podgorica, Montenegro, September 8 (UNHCR) – On September 8, 12 internally displaced families, or 57 persons, who have been living in Konik Camp since 1999, voluntarily returned to Klina municipality, Kosovo. The return has been organized by the Danish Refugee Council, in cooperation with the UNHCR, the NGO HELP and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. The Kosovo municipalities donated the land on which the houses were built.
VOLUNTARY RETURN: A PREFERRED SOLUTION OF DISPLACEMENT ISSUE
Over the past 8 years, more than a 1000 internally displaced persons residing in Montenegro voluntarily returned to Kosovo. On March 28, 2014, the Klina Municipal Assembly adopted a decision in favor of the internally displaced persons (IDP) who wish to return to Klina, allocating 51 acres of land for voluntary return. The allocated land is available for use for a period of 40 years, with the possibility of an extension.
Families that returned to Klina previously visited their place of origin, which aimed to help them make an informed decision on whether to return or not. The notion of sustainable return has also been foreseen by the activity, by which the families have been provided houses, furniture, food for 6 months and self-employment tools and equipment, through UNHCR programmes.
LIVING WITH DIGNITY
Difficult living conditions in the Konik camp is a reality many IDPs face even today, 15 years after the conflicts in Kosovo that lead to their displacement. Limited access to education and employment further burdens the efforts of IDPs to provide adequate housing for their families. As a consequence, reaching durable solutions for these families is heavily dependent on the efforts and altruism of governmental, national and international organizations.
Muhamed Alija came to Montenegro as a 15 years old boy in 1999. His family of 13 lived in a small tent for the first 7 months of their stay in the country. The family was relocated into the barracks, where they remained until 2 years ago, when Muhamed moved with his own family, a wife and four children, into a container, in Konik Camp 1.
Muhamed never gave up from pursuing his dream of returning home. For him, going back is an act of restoring dignity, balanced between returning to his roots and owning a home. His persistence finally paid off, with a return to his newly constructed 62 m² home in Klina, mere days away.
A couple of months ago, Muhamed saw his house in Klina through a ‘go and see’ visit, organized by the Danish Refugee Council. He recollects:
“When I first saw the house, I almost fainted from happiness. I could not believe my eyes. I asked my neighbor: ‘Am I dreaming or is this a house?’ He said: ‘Neighbor, this is your house’. As I heard that, I actually felt as if I was awakening. Seeing the house made me feel as if I was sleeping for the past 15 years. Now my children can finally live in a proper house, with beds and a bathroom. I am beyond happy.”
Ten more houses are to be constructed in Pec for returnees from Montenegro by the end of this year, while the funds secured for the construction of 7 houses in Pec and 8 in the municipality of Istok, during the following year.