Voices of women on the move: Successful discussion in Kumanovo

Voices of women on the move: Successful discussion in Kumanovo

Legis organized the second public discussion on migration and the asylum system in Macedonia “Women on the Move”, on 22.06 in the youth center “Multikulti” in Kumanovo. Comparisons were drawn between the migrant realities of Macedonians who migrate abroad and Syrian refugees, highlighting the specific challenges for women who migrate as well as the room for improvement in the asylum system.

Rama Estef, a Syrian asylum-seeker in Macedonia, retold her experience, the departure from Syria, the journey and current stay in Macedonia. “I was like you, I only heard about stories like these on the TV. Then the war stared and I had to flee my country.” Rama explained the challenges of a young girl who had to cross the border as a refugee with her little brother. She stated that she has been granted temporary protection in Macedonia, while still no asylum has been given. She also underlined the difficulty of living in a camp before for 7, 8 months with restricted freedom of movement. She now lives in an urban area, however, highlights that improvements can be made to the social part of the asylum system. For example, while she has made friends on her own as well as through the support of grassroots organizations, she stated that there is no formally organized support from the authorities for socialization and integration.

Mila Josifovska, Macedonian woman with migrant experience in the past to the US, recounted her story and made parallels with Rama’s story. She explained the push factors in her situation, stating that she went abroad to work because she wanted to gain independence and because the economic conditions were not good back home, with her mother being unemployed and her father having worked in Iraq temporarily. Mila emphasized that Macedonians who migrate abroad also come across a completely new country and culture, by explaining the complicated procedures she had to go through an unknown health system. At the same time, she mentioned that Macedonian migrants also come across bias against foreigners, by mentioning a situation where some person called the migrant workers there “bloody foreigners”. Mila also underlined the importance of migrating in a safe manner – having prepared all the necessary documentation beforehand, having the contacts of embassies and aid organisations in the destination country and most importantly, being cautious with fake job ads that promise too much that young people can easily fall prey to.

Finally, Mersiha Smailovikj, researcher from Legis, provided a more theoretical insight into the legalistic side of the asylum system in Macedonia. She stated that the authorities have taken important steps in improving the legislation, but more needs to be done in practice, as well.  
Among the positive measures, Mersiha highlighted the Istanbul Convention ratification, which will offer better rights to women and girls, including women refugees, as gender-based violence is now recognized as a basis for being granted refugee status. Furthermore, she pointed out that the procedure of family reunification has been improved, a person with a refugee status can start the family reunification immediately, whereas a person with a protection (subsidiary) status can start the procedure 2 years after obtaining their protection status. In addition, the previous safe country reference has been modified and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will publish a list of safe countries on a monthly basis, which is an important change as it is in line with the EU directives. In terms of future measures, Mersiha commented on the need for officials to combine “theory and practice”, that is, the current lawmakers to include more proactively the field people in the lawmaking and strategy-making process, as they are the ones that have to implement the laws and strategies in practice. Mersiha also discussed the shortcomings of granting only temporary protection in Macedonia to refugees from the recent migrant crisis, while not granting officially recognized “refugee status”, adding that the temporary protection lasts only for a year and the wars in the countries where refugees come do not end after a year. The temporary protection status is then assessed and possibly extended after that one year, however that puts additional psychological stress on the person being granted a one-year temporary protection.

This project was implemented by Legis with the support of the Capacity development for Selected actors working with asylum seekers in Serbia and Macedonia. The Capacity development for Selected actors working with asylum seekers in Serbia and Macedonia was established by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and is managed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.