Conclusions: Past, present and future: What kind of challenges people face on the Western Balkan migration route?

Panel 1: Legal challenges for refugees and migrants transiting on the Western Balkan Route

Moderator:

Voislav Stojanovski, Macedonian Helsinki Committee (MK)

Speakers: 

Martina Smilevska, MYLA (MK)

Snezana Teodosievska Jordanovska, Ombudsman office (MK)

Olga Djurovic, APC-CZA (RS)

Konstantinos Tsitselikis, Professor of HR Law (GR)

Conclusion 1:

The access to rights and justice for refugees and migrants on the so-called Western Balkan route is burden by the slow judicial or administrative procedures/legal practices in each country.  The Dublin regulations and the Western Balkan 17 points plan failed to provide humane and legal conditions for access to protection of people in need. The so-called Balkan countries, regardless of their EU status, made intervened in national asylum legal frameworks disregarding international HR and humanitarian standards and civil society actors involved in the refugee and migrant crisis. Populist measures taken to secure the borders of nation-states stimulate illegal and criminal channels, further endangering the lives of the ones in need of protection. Those practices should be challenged in front of the European Court for Human Rights in order for judicial decisions to have effect on legislations in collision with international HR and humanitarian standards, as well as drawing attention of media and international community to the violations witnessed in the field work. 

Panel 2: Human rights challenges: Access to rights and protection of refugees and migrants on the Western Balkan Route

Moderator:

Besa Arifi, Proffesor (MK)

Speakers:

Elena Brmbeska, Macedonian Helsinki Committee (MK)

Mersiha Smailovic, Legis (MK)

Blaze Kojcevski, UNHCR (MK)

Emilie Pesselier, (FR)

Conclusion 2: The differences in the national legislations and lack of cooperation between governments in the region lead to impunity and complete disregard of international HR and humanitarian standards in asylum, readmission, relocation and family reunification processes. In order to provide humane and dignified transit, asylum or integration of refugees and migrants, governments have to refrain from promotion of political/nationalistic security agendas and provide legal access to territory for people in need of protection. It is a political decision of governments to combat organized crime groups and not the people who are forced to use those illegal services for transit or transport to Western Europe. The closing of the borders enabled organized crime groups to endorse huge profits without prosecution and people in need without protection. Positive outcome of changes in legislations can provide long-term solutions if the intention of legislators is to respect, consolidate and implement policies based on HR and humanitarian standards. Laws take time to be implemented and justice needs time to create practice. But, we have to be persistent in demanding changes as they will produce long-term positive outcome for people perceived as refugees and migrants. National asylum legislations will define the future of European countries and their interaction in regional and European governmental organizations. 

Panel 3: Challenges of regional cooperation and solidarity for NGOs, formal and non-formal groups/networks

Moderator:

Suad Misini (MK)

Speakers: 

Jasmin Redjepi, Legis(MK)

Sara Benceković, Are You Syrious? (HR)

Vasilis Tzartznis, Activist(GR)

Kelsey Montzka, North Star (RS)

Franjo Stainer, Interkulturelles Zentrum (AU)

Conclusion 3:

The regional cooperation and solidarity for NGOs, formal and non-formal groups/networks today is in decline if compared with the level of cooperation between civil society actors in 2015 when the refugee and migrant flow reached the level of humanitarian crisis.  The NGOs, formal and non-formal humanitarian or other assistance can be benefitial and push for systematic changes or serve as outlet for goverments to maintain status-quo and push political agendas. These effects became visible after the closing of the borders and analysis of the civil society actors work within closed or semi-open facilities and camps. Self-reflection, reorganization and revitalisation of the cooperation in spirit of solidarity, rahter then project-oriented activities are needed. Several factors contributed to decrease of cooperation, especially on solidar basis or:

- The economic and social gaps between activists define their (in)ability to volunteer their time in humanitarian,legal or advocacy activities

- The late responce of State and International NGOs in the refugee and humanitarian crisis took no consideration for the activities and good practices established on field of local NGOs, formal and non formal civil groups and individiuals

- The differences in the economic, legal and political/ideological development of countries in Europe make conditions for strong/unified regional or European civil  responce to far-right security agendas

- The lack of cooperation and inclusion of civil society actors in  decision-making processes by goverments in the  Western Balkan region directly affects the trust among civil society actors and well-being of the people in need of protection

- The individual project and donor oriented activities of NGOs, formal or non-formal groups further defocuses civil society actors as they lack time and means to agree on structured and organized civil responce to far-right propaganda 

Panel 4: Challenges of integration and adaptation in the Western Balkan countries

Moderator:

Jasmina Golubovska, Legis (MK)

Speakers:

Dragi Zmijanac, Megjashi (MK)

Dushko Petrovski, Center for crisis management (MK)

 Maja Varoshlija,  Open Gate La Strada (MK)

Srdjan Amet, SOS Children village (MK)

The legal and political uncertainty within the country deminishes positive outlook on possibilities to create Strategies for integration and adaptation of foreigners regardless of their obtained or lack of legal status of refugee or person in need of subsidiary protection. Although there are limited number of people on the territory, one should condisider the treatment and condisitions of people seeking asylum or being stranded in transit border and reception centers as a result of the closing of the borders in March, 2016. At this moment all educational and psycho-social services are provided by local and international NGOs. These practices were noted even before the refugee and humanitarian crisis, as adaptaiton and integration activities for the last decade are provided by  NGOs in the official center for reception of asylum seekers. Outdated National inclusion strategies and other primary and secondary legislation are in collision with International HR and humanitarian standards. Therefore, civil society actors  work in conditions of legal uncertainty, preventing proper access to asylum i.e. adaptation and integration processes. Public pressure should be oriented towards changes of current practices and insist on the respect of human dignity, cultural, religious and ethnical diversity of people being stranded or seek protection.

Civil society and State actors have to pay greater attention to vulnerable groups among refugee and migrant population such as unaccompanied minors, as the statistical data shows stagerring numbers of more than 10.000 children and minors gone missing in the past 2 years. Access education, health, social security and full respect of the dignity of individuals and families transiting or residing in the country must be established through the State institutions and in best interest of the people in need for protection. NGOs can assist with expertise and knowledge, having in mind their current role in fullfiling gaps of the system.