The parties should not abuse the refugee question

In Macedonia, there used to be a fair policy regarding refugees, they were not used for political arguments and that level of ethics and policy should be maintained, representatives of CSOs say after the political parties have been accusing one another of the new Refugee Strategy.

The Refugee Integration Strategy of Macedonia 2017-2027 is still being drafted, and in general it is good and the opposition’s accusations are not well founded at all that the country has been threatened, either in terms of finances, demographics or security, activist Jasmin Redjepi says from Legis NGO who works on the field with the refugees alongside his colleagues.

Redjepi explains that the new Strategy has been drafted together with the UNHCR, and the NGOs and other stakeholders had until August 9 to give their contribution.

“Bearing in mind that the Strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the UNHCR and that it has been reviewed by our experts, we got several remarks and generally speaking we believe the Strategy is good and it doesn’t pose a threat either to the country or its citizens”, Redjepi states.

Yesterday, the opposition party VRMO-DPMNE, due to the Strategy, submitted an interpellation to the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Mila Carovska. Vlatko Gjorchev, a VMRO-DPMNE MP announced that the citizens and the Municipalities hadn’t been consulted and familiarized with the Strategy of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. He also added that Macedonia from a transit country would turn into final destination of the refugees and that it would have enormous housing costs and costs of building flats and settlements for the migrants.

SDSM answered by stating that the interpellation submitted by the opposition party in relation to the draft of the Refugee Strategy, which was adopted back in 2008 by the VRMP-DPMNE Government, was absurd. They also point out that the Strategy doesn’t have an obligatory character, Macedonia is a transit country which means they would not stay in Macedonia and no citizenship will be granted to refugees. As for the accusations that part of the budget will be allocated for the implementation of the Strategy, Redjepi claims that the Strategy will not be a burden to the state and its citizens. Money will be secured through the international community, the EU, embassies and other international organisations that would fund the project.

In relation to the claims that tens of thousands of refugees would stay in Macedonia, Redjepi says the Strategy doesn’t allow for it and that it is more advanced than the previous one, in which, as he states, integration was more complicated.

 “In the past 10 years, especially from 2015-2017, we haven’t had cases of refugees who wanted to stay in the Republic of Macedonia, except for a few, who out of various reasons have sought protection. We aren’t their target country. When Europe closed the Balkan Route in 2016, 1500 refugees got stranded in Macedonia and weren’t able to proceed their journey. Nevertheless, they had found a way to enter Serbia and moved on, whereas the rest had gone back to Greece. None of them, except for 3 individuals, haven’t stayed in this country”, Redjepi says.

He emphasises that as an NGO they are only working in the interest of the refugees and regular migrants. He calls on all the political parties not to use the refugee question as part of their daily arguments, because, as he says, there used to be a fair policy in relation to that.

The Strategy on Integration of Refugees and Foreigners 2008-2015, signed by then Minister of Labour and Social Policy Dheljal Bajrami, states that Macedonia still lacks a comprehensive political document for its policy of integration of immigrants.

Some of the aims of the Strategy are to enable fast integration of different target groups, give them support in integration and if refugees and migrants want, help them fulfill the criteria for obtaining citizenship of the Republic of Macedonia.

Source: slobodnaevropa