Twenty Years of IOM in Kosovo celebrated on International Migrants Day

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In 1999, following unrest and widespread displacement, an IOM mission was opened in Kosovo*. It provided transport assistance to Kosovar refugees to a wide range of European countries, operated a registration database and conducted family reunifications.

Since then nearly one million people have benefited from IOM’s presence. The Organization’s services have extended from evacuations and medical and psychosocial assistance to development and assistance to vulnerable groups, according Alina Mihai, IOM’s Kosovo Officer in Charge, speaking at a high-level function in the capital Pristina on Wednesday to mark 20 years of IOM’s presence in Kosovo.

In a keynote speech, Ulrika Richardson, the UN Development Coordinator in Kosovo welcomed the growing role of IOM within the UN family. “Today, marking the Global Day of Migration, I would like to call upon stronger collective engagement to ensure a wide and sustainable answer for the people on the move, especially the most vulnerable”, she said.

Representing the Regional Office in Vienna, Senior Regional Emergency and Post-Crisis Specialist Dragan Aleksoski took up the theme of International Migrants Day: “IOM is present here in Pristina, and in many other towns in Kosovo, working closely with returnees, minorities, and displaced persons. We are committed to contributing to social integration, cohesion and community stabilization.”

During the event, guests heard the personal story of Vladan Vukadinovic, a former displaced person and beneficiary of EU funded Return and Reintegration Program in Kosovo.  “Even after 10 years spent as a displaced person, the desire for my hometown never vanished. Thus, I took the decision to return. Now, almost a year later, thanks to IOM and my local Municipality my return has become sustainable for me and members of my family.”

The event ended with screening of a selection of movies from Global Migration Film Festival.

The IOM Kosovo Mission has, throughout its 20 years of service, proved a long-term reliable partner to the Kosovar population. The Organizations first operations in Kosovo begun in April 1999 providing transport assistance to Kosovar refugees to a wide range of European countries, operated a registration database and subsequently conducted family reunifications. Services extended from evacuations and medical and psychosocial assistance, to development and assistance to vulnerable groups.

From the emergency of 1999 to date, IOM has not only followed the events on the ground but has proactively worked with donor governments and other partners to make sure that the short-, medium- and longer-term needs of Kosovars were met.

With the stabilization of the situation in Kosovo, IOM continued being a key partner to the Kosovo people, and provided post conflict assistance and further-reaching services in support of the return process and the stabilization of communities. Programmes specifically tailored to the needs, allowed for specialized trainings of the Kosovo Protection Corps as well as local administrations in various fields, contributing to their development in providing services in the benefit of the Kosovo population.

Committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society, IOM manages the movement of migrants, refuges and displaced persons to new homes and provides comprehensive migration assistance to governments and its other partners. More than 220’000 persons have been assisted to voluntarily return to Kosovo from European countries, and over 800 displaced persons in Kosovo and the region, were assisted to return and reintegrate in their place of origin.

During the 20 years of service IOM has followed a strategy that went beyond the emergency response and the indispensable reconstruction and rehabilitation. We have been supporting in synchrony and close cooperation with the international endeavor longer-term development projects and programs aiming at achieving both human growth and economic development, fostering the development of democratic institutions and the rule of law. An overall attempt to bring Kosovo closer to the standards enjoyed elsewhere in the European region.

Today, its core duties as providing immigration and return assistance, IOM Kosovo has taken a strong grip on migration push factors by implementing projects intended to create job opportunities, support small and medium enterprises and secure more pleasant living environment. Our Community Stabilization programme is fostering inter-ethnic relations and a successful integration of minority communities. Our Social Inclusion Project focuses on inter-ethnic youth initiatives, the promotion of Albanian and Serbian language learning and use of both languages, and educational and extra-curricular activities to bridge divides in Kosovo’s society. Lastly, in recognition that Kosovo’s young population offers an enormous, yet untapped potential for economic growth and social change, IOM is carrying out community activities with a focus on youth development and inclusion, equipping young Kosovans with life and soft skills to become agents of change in their local communities.

With dedication and commitment, the IOM Kosovo Mission and its staff look forward to continuing working together with its partners in Kosovo in the coming years.  

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99.