More than ever, now is the time for solidarity with refugees, and it is important to remember that the care for refugees is a global responsibility.
Strong messages of solidarity with over 68 million displaced worldwide were sent on the occasion of World Refugee Day, marked jointly by UN Refugee Agency UNHCR in Montenegro, UN System of Montenegro, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. The event took place at the Community Centre in Spuz, managed by UNHCR and Red Cross of Montenegro.
Besides the official, persons who were approved with international protection in Montenegro also gave short speeches, providing testimonies of their lives in the country. All participants had the opportunity to taste traditional dishes prepared by refugees with sounds of traditional music from their countries.
“No one chooses to become a refugee. More than ever, now is the time for solidarity with refugees, and it is important to remember that the care for refugees is a global responsibility. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all governments in 2015, sets, among other things, standards that apply to refugees, from security and safety, health and well-being, to access to education”
Fiona McCluney, UN Resident Coordinator in Montenegro.
In its annual Global Trends report, the UN Refugee Agency said 68,5 million people were displaced at the end of 2017, out of which 40 million internally displaced persons and 28,5 million refugees.
“Today is the day we pay tribute to all those who were forced to flee from their homes due to persecution, conflict and violence. Today is also the day when we pay tribute to those who lost their lives during perilous journeys to safety. We also pay tribute to all those who have helped and are helping asylum seekers and refugees to settle in hosting countries. Today we particularly pay tribute to Montenegro that has provided refuge to people fleeing conflicts from ex-Yugoslavia and refugees from other countries. We also pay tribute to local and state institutions, international and non-governmental organizations and the local community that help these people in their integration,” said Roberta Montevecchi, UNHCR Representative in Montenegro.
Montenegro has earned excellent reputation due to humanitarian principles in equal treatment of refugees and migrants seeking access to the country. Over 120,000 persons displaced by the wars of dissolution of former Yugoslavia found refuge in Montenegro. Although most returned home, around 12,500 remain in the country.
“The World Refugee Day reminds us of the plight and suffering of people around the world, and points to their struggle, perseverance and courage despite the harsh living conditions they face. The citizens of Montenegro showed a high degree of empathy and solidarity for more than 120,000 refugees and displaced persons due to the conflict in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, which was about 20% of the population of Montenegro at the time“
Dragan Pejanović, State Secretary at the Ministry of Interior of Montenegro
"Montenegro is actively working to strengthen the capacity and implementation of standards for vulnerable groups of persons seeking international protection in the country. The World Refuge Day is a permanent reminder of the fact that people are suffering and dying in great numbers in countries that are not so far away from us. Montenegro, as before, will be consistent in the affirmation, protection and realization of human rights and freedoms, with special emphasis on sensitive social groups,” Pejanović added
Since the establishment of the asylum system in Montenegro in 2006, 60 persons fleeing persecution from around the world were awarded with refugee status or subsidiary protection in Montenegro. Out of that number, 29 still reside in the country. Most of them attended the event, and some even spoke of their life in Montenegro.
“I would like extend gratitude on my behalf and on the behalf of my family to UNHCR, Red Cross of Montenegro and the Government of Montenegro, for making a stable life in Montenegro - a reality for my family. I would like to thank the citizens of Montenegro for the warm welcome and the opportunity for my children to go to school, have friends and lead a normal life,” said a Cuban whose family and himself received international protection/refugee status in Montenegro due to persecution in the country of origin.
The refugee community in Montenegro may be small, but they are doing their best to succeed and lead a normal life in Montenegro.
“I have been living in Montenegro for 2 years now. During this period, I have learned that I can count on UNHCR, Red Cross of Montenegro and the state of Montenegro, to receive all the necessary support that I need to lead a normal life here. My son just finished third grade. He is very happy because he has many friends. I am even happier. He won the first prize in a math competition, the second prize in crisscross and will soon participate in the international soccer competition,” said a refugee from Belarus.
Sadly, solutions to the plight of refugees remain in small number. Wars and conflicts continue to be the main driving force for the displacement of people around the world. Stronger and more visible progress towards peace around the world is necessary. Since refugee situations cannot be avoided and many last for years or decades, the asylum system is a key life-saving mechanism that needs to be strengthened, defended and supported globally.