Round table

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.

Introducing ISO standards in CSO management system- Call for the applications

IRIS Network is pleased to announce call  “Introducing ISO standards in CSO management systemaiming to provide mentoring  services for the CSOs in process of acquiring quality management certification.

Since several target countries from SEE region have adopted quality standards for social services and introduced the licensing of social services, CSOs are faced with lack of resources to prepare documentation and fulfill standards in order to be able to use public funds for financing. Part of capacity building process will be engaging of experts for specific sectors in order to consult CSOs in preparation of required elaborates and reports. At least 10 CSOs IRIS Network members providing social services will be assisted in their certification process.

Application form and Guidelines of the call are available from 04.03.2016.

Deadline for the applications is 22.03.2016.

Social service policy influencing in SEE

Based on the national congresses of the IRIS networks in the region, each national IRIS network prepared Policy paper with the aim to focus on several specific issues within social service delivery in SEE which they decided to raise as being the most important ones.  Topics of the policy documents were widely discussed in consultations with the national networks membership, as well as the authority representatives. Policy papers topics are:  Victim Protection and Safety in Cases of Domestic Violence in Kosovo, Decentralization of Services and Cooperation Between Government  and Non-government  Providers of Social Services in FYROM, Implementation of National/Regional Strategies in the Field of Mental Health Protection in Serbia, Development of Social Services on Local Level in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Improving the social service delivery by enhancing the role Civil Society Organisations in Albania, Applicability of Standards for the Provision of Social Services in CSOs in Montenegro. Additionally, another policy paper was created reflecting situation in SEE and possible joint actions to be implemented.  Based on these Policy Papers the National IRIS Networks will conduct Advocacy Campaigns in 2016. To read policy papers click on the following links.

Policy paper South East Europe

Policy paper Albania

Policy paper Bosnia and Herzegovina

Policy paper Kosovo

Policy paper Macedonia (FYROM)

Policy paper Montenegro

Policy paper Serbia

Voice of IRIS Network in Brussels

IRIS Network together with Solidar  on 10th November 2015, organised a roundtable debate at the European Economic and Social Committee titled “Migration and Fundamental Rights: Will the EU live up to its values?”.

The roundtable was divided into two panel discussions. The first panel focused on the need to improve the Common European asylum system and putting solidarity and respect of human rights at the hearth of EU migration and integration polices. The second panel titled “How to support CSOs providing humanitarian assistance and services to refugees along the Western Balkans route?” reflected the link between EU Enlargement and EU migration policies and explored tools in order to support CSOs providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees along the Western Balkan route.

The second panel was organized in the framework of the EU-funded project “Improving the provision of Social Service Delivery in South Eastern Europe through the empowerment of national and regional CSOs”, implemented by the consortium of LIR CD BiH, OGI Croatia, EDC Serbia, SOS TELEPHONE Montenegro, CLARD Kosovo, ARSIS Albania, ASYD FYROM, and SOLIDAR – led by ASB Germany & in collaboration with TACSO.

Panel was introduced by opening remarks of MEP Tanja Fajon, S&D group, who stated that “it had been a shameless summer for Europe”. Mrs Fajon also expressed her concern on the alleged fact that Member States, although they pledge to, are not enough financing funds.

Ivan Marin, Network Manager of IRIS Network, shared his concerns regarding the criminalization of certain NGOS who provide services to refugees. However, he welcomed the incoming Directive on researchers and students set to avoid brain drain and maximize brain gain whilst enabling young people to access more social opportunities via legal channels.

Other participants invited by IRIS Network, such as Oktay Durukan, Director of Refugee Rights Turkey, Irida Pandiri, Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS)- Greece, Borče Jankuloski, from Preda Plus – FYROM, Zlatar Franci from Slovene Philantropy-Slovenia, Srba Jovanović from Refugee Aid Serbia-Serbia and Nikoleta Poljak, Volunteer Centre Osijek-Croatia, highlighted the work of their respective organizations on migrant crisis relief in Balkan. They noted how it was complex for smaller organizations to access available funds, deemed as too rigid and strict. Cooperation could foster a broader leadership role for civil society, as one of IRIS panelists quoted that “we are more organized than our governments”

In the final part of the roundtable, Liane Adler, DG NEAR (Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programs Unit), praised the role of NGOs as service providers and in their assistance to local communities. She argued how the Enlargement process was to be considered as an important political tool for Balkan countries to guarantee respect of fundamental rights of migrants, although this was not considered as a priority in the Enlargement Package in recent years due to the fact that refugee flows stemmed from sea borne routes via the Mediterranean Sea.

Ionut Sibian, EESC, Co-chair of the EU-Serbia Joint Consultative Committee said that he believes the European Commission should improve consultations with civil society before launching a call for proposal in order to assess the real needs of organizations working on the ground. Although supporting projects is a necessity, Mr Sibian argued that operational grants should be provided to networks/ intermediary platforms who deal with complex legal and administrative practices, thus allowing the NGOs to concentrate on actual services they need to provide to refugees.

Full report and conclusions is available in round table debate report.

PPT slideshow on activities of Balkan CSO.

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