Humanitarian Aid for Refugees in Lipkovo Region

NGO Legis was supported by Foundation Open Society Macedonia (FOSM) for assisting the refugees in the Lipkovo region. Legis always tries to provide immediate response to needs of a specific community, in this particular case, the target population being refugees transiting or temporarily residing in the Lipkovo region. Legis has successfully managed to accomplish all project activities.

Despite the fact that the humanitarian corridor along the balkanroute has been officially closed, the movement of people, though significantly decreased, has nevertheless persisted irregularly even under the harsh winter conditions when temperatures reached -20 °C. Part of the irregular transit routes that refugees use include the Lipkovo region, near the border with Serbia, and the mountain villages of Vaksince and Lojane, where the presence of irregular refugees is highly visible.

The mentioned villages count numerous refugees (undocumented migrants) en route to Serbia, with the EU being their final destination, but also a great number of refugees that have been deported from Serbia to Macedonia without any legal procedures on the part of the Serbian authorities. The Serbian authorities have been exposed to harsh criticism by various media outlets, national and international human rights organisations for its recent en masse deportations to Macedonia and Bulgaria.

In the village of Lojane, Legis is trying to meet the needs of undocumented refugees/migrants with a humanitarian aid distribution point/office, which is open 16 hours a day. Among the undocumented refugees/migrants crossing are women, children and unaccompanied minors, who as a particularly vulnerable category, are exposed to risks of violence, including gender-based violence, human trafficking, blackmailing and extortion. Moreover, the refugees are suffering from exposure to harsh temperatures, lacking proper access to water, food or much needed items to alleviate the exposure to low temperatures. There is a dire necessity for humanitarian aid and protection of the most vulnerable categories.

Legis has been officially active in the region since August. Over the past 4 months, on a monthly basis, approximately 650 refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Northern Africa are visiting the humanitarian aid point of Legis and after having obtained the needed articles, continue with their journey through the mountainous region.

The presence of Legis’ team in the Lipkovo area is officially established and agreed upon with the municipal and state authorities. Legis is maintaining good communication and cooperation with the authorities, the Red Cross (also active in the area), as well as the local population. For example, Legis has contributed positively to the local community by employing 2 local youths, as well as managing to animate the locals by engaging them as volunteers in their activities at the aid distribution point.

FOSM has supported our activities with a budget used for purchasing and distribution of items as: blankets, winter hats and gloves, jackets for children, men and women, boots for children, men and women, hot soups, heater, biscuits, healthy energy-rich food (dates) etc.

In addition to providing people in transit with the needed humanitarian aid, Legis team is also documenting basic refugee data, such as: country of origin, whether deportation have occurred, routes of transit etc.

Legis will publish a quarterly report on the distributed humanitarian assistance, number of refugees arriving from Greece and being deported from Serbia, as well as the particular risks they are confronted with and the need for protection. Legis, along with the Ombudsman of the Republic of Macedonia, will be present in the centres for detention of refugees, summarising the findings in reports and providing recommendations to the competent bodies.