On December 18, 2018, IRIS Network observed the International Migrants Day by organizing a Round Table on Protection Sensitive Migration Management in Brussels. The Round Table event was organized as a part of the project IRIS NETWORKing – CSOs for protection sensitive migration management, funded by the European Union.
The purpose of the event was to present the current situation related to migration in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro as well as Findings and Recommendations from the Guide on referral system/social service delivery for migrants to relevant Embassy representatives and Brussels based decision makers.
Miodrag Nedeljkovic, IDC Executive Director, gave an introductory speech, explaining that the goal of IRIS Network is to bring together national networks of social service providers from WB region. He also added that the main and most important goal of this project is better social care for most vulnerable groups who do not have proper services provided by local or national governments. Jelena Andjelic, IRIS NETWORKing Project Manager, stressed that the main goal is to put a focus on the significance of the networking among CSOs in Western Balkans in terms of capacity building of all national actors as well as enhancing the regional cooperation on all levels. It was a pleasure to host Liselotte Isaksson, Head of Sector – Civil Society and social inclusion – Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes in European Commission, DG NEAR, as one of the speakers. She stressed that migration remains to be on the EU Agenda, that CSO are key partners to work with and that social welfare should be more integrated into EU policies.
While, Masa Mitrovic, project partner representing ASB, gave an overview of IRIS Network background in the period since 2012 and explained the synergy with ongoing Social Dimension Initiative project. She concluded that IRIS Network is now more than project and is a platform for exchange, cooperation and influencing at all levels.
Following, IRIS Network National Coordinators, presented the migration related situation in their respective countries.
Jelena Anđelić presenting the situation in Serbia, said that the regional cooperation is particularly important in the context of the most vulnerable migrants and refugees, such as unaccompanied minors, women victims of trafficking, victims of torture, in order to ensure protection in line with international standards, but also to demonstrate responsibility towards the most vulnerable individuals. In the context of protection of the most vulnerable, it is also important to strengthen mechanisms for early identification and differentiation of various categories identified in the migration flow. Biljana Zgonjanin, from LIR CD, IRIS Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, informed the participants that the most recent data on migrants shows that there are 21.201 migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the crisis influenced methods of working with beneficiaries, which have been adapted to new circumstances. The refugees crises should in no case be considered as ended, the movement is still a reality, however on unregulated routes, which makes the refugees invisible and away from the protection system and on the mercy of the smuggling criminal groups, said Stojne Atanasovska Dimishkovska, from Open Gate: La Strada Macedonia, IRIS Network National Coordinator. Ana Majko from Social Organization for Support of Youth – Arsis, IRIS Network National Coordinator Albania, informed that participants that the number of migrants passing through Albania is higher than reported and that human trafficking is a big issue. She also said that UNHCR in Albania is working on a new database that will contribute to improved migration management in Albania. Biljana Zekovic, from SOS Telephone, National Coordinator Montenegro stressed that protection monitoring results, among 1.600 migrants, showed that were no reported violations by the police and migrants’ rights were fully protected.
The following session dealt with Recommendations on the regional level by indicating areas which have been recognized as ones where regional cooperation is needed and can contribute to protection sensitive migration management on the level of Western Balkans, which were presented by regional expert on social issues Mr. Zarko Sunderic.
The last session was dedicated to more networking opportunities in WB and on the EU level in terms of discussing the possibilities for the enhancement of the cooperation and communication as well as creating synergies between different stakeholders. Mr. Alexander Friedrich from Samaritan International presented the cooperation in terms of providing emergency response to migration crisis, among other activities.
It can be concluded that the participants were provided with an in-depth overview of migrant management in Western Balkans, that important networking was established between IRIS Network and EU decision makers engaged in migrant management and Embassy representatives. The Round Table is definitely a significant and important step forward in brining closer the issue of migrant management in Western Balkans to EU interlocutors for the purpose of future cooperation and exchange of information on the issue.