[09SKOPJE621] MACEDONIA: NEW NATIONAL ACTION PLAN AIMS AT DURABLE SOLUTIONS FOR REMAINING REFUGEES FROM KOSOVO CRISIS

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Published by Wikileaks & Bivol.bg
 date: 12/23/2009 16:13 refid: 09SKOPJE621 origin: Embassy Skopje classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY destination:  header: VZCZCXYZ0001 PP RUEHWEB  DE RUEHSQ #0621/01 3571613 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 231613Z DEC 09 FM AMEMBASSY SKOPJE TO RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PRIORITY 0033 RUEHPS/AMEMBASSY PRISTINA PRIORITY 4585 RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0963 RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8775   ----------------- header ends ----------------  UNCLAS SKOPJE 000621    SENSITIVE  SIPDIS    STATE FOR EUR/SCE AND PRM; EMBASSY BELGRADE FOR ANNE MARIE  MOORE    E.O. 12958: N/A  TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PREL, MK  SUBJECT: MACEDONIA: NEW NATIONAL ACTION PLAN AIMS AT  DURABLE SOLUTIONS FOR REMAINING REFUGEES FROM KOSOVO CRISIS    1. (SBU)  Summary:   Ten years after the influx of nearly  350,000 refugees to Macedonia during the Kosovo crisis, the  Government of Macedonia, together with UNHCR Skopje, is  working to create durable solutions for the remaining  approximately 1,600 refugees and asylum seekers, nearly all  of whom are ethnic Roma. The GoM opened an integration center  for refugees in October and passed a national action plan for  the integration of refugees in early November, providing  nearly one million Euros in funding for the program for 2010.   While plans and programs for integration  continue to  develop, increasing numbers of the remaining refugees are  seeking to return to Kosovo.  Kosovo's independence and  refugees' expectations of increased international funding are  presumed to be behind the increase in requests for returns.  Through the combination of integration and returns, UNHCR  Skopje has set out a solutions/exit strategy that aims to  find durable solutions for the vast majority of remaining  refugees by 2011.  While solutions for the remaining Kosovo  refugees move forward, the quality of Macedonia's legal  framework for refugee and asylum determinations has also  improved-- providing a more stable foundation for addressing  refugee issues in the future. The Parliament passed a new law  on asylum and temporary protection (which entered into force  on December 15).  This law meets all EU standards for asylum  and temporary protection and most international standards  promoted by UNHCR. End Summary.    Integration Plan:  A Regional Model?  -----------------------------------  2.  (SBU) In early November, the GoM adopted a national  action plan for integration of refugees and foreigners.  The  action plan follows passage in December 2008 of a strategic  plan for integration of refugees.  UNHCR strongly supported  the process, aiding in finding a professional consultant to  develop the plan, and providing input and modifications as  the plan developed.  At the time the Strategic Plan was  adopted, UNHCR Skopje indicated that Macedonia was the first,  and perhaps would be the only, country in the region to adopt  a comprehensive approach to integration of Kosovo refugees.  According to UNHCR Skopje, some other neighboring countries  indicated they would base future diplomatic relations with  Kosovo on return of refugees. (Macedonia recognized Kosovo's  independence in October 2008 and established full diplomatic  relations earlier this year.)    3.  (SBU) Somewhat surprisingly, there has not been public or  political opposition to the plan, even at the often  contentious budgeting stage.  The GoM budgeted nearly 1  million Euros for the integration plan for 2010.  With  assistance and support of UNHCR, the Ministry of Labor and  Social Policy (MLSP) opened an Integration Center in the  majority-Roma Skopje municipality of Shuto Orizari in  October.  While the strategic and action plans for  integration call for long-term assistance to refugees in the  areas of housing and employment, the 1 million Euro budget  will initially only allow for the MLSP to take over direct  support payments for accommodations to refugees from UNHCR,  beginning January 1. The GoM hopes to draw financial support  from the international community to further develop services  of the integration center, aiming toward eventual  naturalization of those refugees who seek to remain.    Applications for Returns Way Up  -------------------------------  4.  (SBU) While plans move forward to provide integration  assistance to some refugees, others are seeking voluntary  return to Kosovo.  In recent years, fewer than 50 refugees  per year applied for return to Kosovo.  Following Kosovo  independence, there was a sharp increase in applications for  return, with more than 300 refugees applying this year.  With  increased applications, UNHCR Skopje is concerned about the  slow speed of returns to Kosovo (reporting that only 31  refugees have returned this year) and reports an urgent need  for streamlining of the return/reintegration procedures in  Kosovo.      5. (SBU) Comment: The plan forward for integration of  remaining refugees from the Kosovo crisis has, surprisingly,  not/not been politicized here.  UNHCR gives high marks to the  plan, viewing it as a positive development in the region.  While Kosovo recognition, border demarcation, and  establishment of diplomatic relations with Kosovo all met  with expected political posturing and considerable media  coverage, the refugee integration plan has passed quietly and  without political opposition -- a bright spot in inter-ethnic    relations in the Balkans.  End Comment.  REEKER 
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