15 May 2009 – The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has just released a new report on protracted internal displacement in Europe. This report highlights the situation of IDPs from Kosovo with particular emphasise on the problems faced by Roma.

It underlines problems in terms of access to documents, social benefits including pension, and property restitution.

Quotes:

Most IDPs in Kosovo live in enclaves in rural areas, often in poor conditions and many have problems accessing land because of limits to their freedom of movement outside of the enclaves.

Many IDPs from Kosovo also struggle to obtain their full pension and unemployment benefits because authorities in Kosovo and Serbia do not recognise each others’ documents.

Roma IDPs are disproportionately affected by the lack of documentation in the Balkans. Some have never had identification documents or residence registration and must initiate costly procedures in order to be registered as residents and as IDPs. In Serbia, the lack of documentation and legal residence prevents them from registering as IDPs and accessing related assistance and rights (such as health care and housing). Thus, living in informal settlements without legal residence or identification, Roma IDPs cannot register new births, apply for citizenship or access social benefits, employment and education. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Serbia and in Kosovo, civil registration campaigns have been started to address this situation. But to register the large numbers of unregistered people will require major commitment, especially in the context of Kosovo’s independence where people will have to come forward to obtain new citizenship, and those without documents will be at risk of statelessness.

IDPs who never possessed ownership titles, such as Roma living in informal settlements in houses built without a permit, or women whose houses were registered under the name of their husband, have had particular trouble obtaining reconstruction assistance and repossessing their property. IDPs from Kosovo have struggled to claim their properties because many civil registries and cadastral maps from Kosovo municipalities were taken to Serbia proper.

In Kosovo, there were in 2008 59,000 property claims for restitution and compensation pending, mainly from Kosovo Serbs. Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008 worsened their situation because Serbia has since refused to cooperate with the Kosovo Property Agency (KPA) and closed KPA offices in Serbia. This will seriously undermine the restitution process since some 30 per cent of Kosovo’s cadastral maps are located in Serbia. In addition to these administrative barriers, IDPs’ properties in Kosovo are threatened by widespread illegal expropriation and construction, often without the knowledge of displaced owners. Throughout the Balkans, certain groups of IDPs, such as Roma, face additional difficulties to claim for restitution or reconstruction due to their lack of property title.

The full report is available here.

May 2009