Training on Documenting Refugee Rights’ Violations

Legis participated in a training organised by the Helsinki Committee of the Republic of Macedonia on documenting refugee rights’ violations 20th-22nd of January, 2017, in Mavrovo, Macedonia. The objective of the training was presenting the current situation of refugees in Macedonia and empowering relevant civil society representatives with the skills and tools on how to monitor, document and report on infringement of refugee rights. Legis team took part as participants but also presenters in the working sessions.

The training was opened by Uranija Pirovska, executive director of the Helsinki Committee of the Republic of Macedonia, followed by a detailed overview of the international standards of the rights of refugees given by Voislav Stojanovski, legal counselor at the Helsinki Committee. Mr. Stojanovski elaborated on the Refugee Convention of 1951, as well as the 1967 Protocol.

Zoran Drangovski, president of the Macedonian Young Lawyers’ Association, explained in detail the procedure of seeking asylum in Macedonia. Rights and responsibilities of both asylum-seekers and relevant authorities were discussed, during the asylum procedure, after being granted asylum or subsidiary protection. Issues with the asylum system in Macedonia were also raised, such as the long process for family reunification or having access to only one meal per day in the current asylum centre of Vizbegovo. The need for respect of official readmission programs signed by Balkan countries as well as the right to effective legal mechanisms of seeking asylum were highlighted. In particular, the recent amendments to the asylum law in 2015 and 2016 were also looked into, with emphasis on the shortcomings of the intention for seeking asylum introduced in 2015.

In addition, the Public Defender representatives held sessions on the field of competence and activities of the National Preventive Mechanism, with special focus on refugee access to rights in Macedonia,  elaborating on the article 108 and 132 of the Law on Foreigners. The need for translators for refugees was also highlighted.

Elena Brmbeska from the Helsinki Committee underlined the main methods for monitoring and documenting abuses of refugee rights, ensued by an overview on hate speech, hate crime and discrimination in the Republic of Macedonia given by Uranija Pirovska.

Jasmin Redzepi from Legis presented the humanitarian aspects of the refugee crisis in Macedonia, giving a retrospect of the field involvement of Legis since October 2014 and the humanitarian movement of volunteers that Legis managed to engage in the response to the immediate needs of refugees on the field. Mr. Redzepi also presented the wide scope of activities of Legis, including the amendment to the Law on asylum that Legis initiated and managed to successfully bring about in June, 2015. He ended his presentation by pointing out the need to go beyond the humanitarian response and also be the ‘voice of the voiceless”.

Menche Rizova and Goran Mitrovski from the Helsinki Committee gave an insight into their monitoring work in the transit refugee centre of Gevgelija and Ajeta Ljaikj also from the Helsinki Committee presented the monitoring work in the transit centre of Tabanovce.

The current state of affairs with irregular migration in the Lipkovo region was presented by Faton Memedi from the Helsinki Committee as well as Aleksandra Davidovska from Legis, who gave a detailed summary of all the challenges people in transit are confronted with at present, including human trafficking, smuggling of people, harsh weather conditions, as well as challenges that the local population in these villages face. Legis also presented their monitoring work in the Lipkovo area, and the immediate humanitarian response they provide in the form of warm blankets, hot soups, warm clothes etc.