O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 9 June 1999

Tirana 9 June 1999

Will they sign or will they not. Every day again the big question, probably when you read this they have signed already, but at this moment they haven't yet. We started this morning with a small discussion in the office on what this actually means, how much influence the military actually has. When the Serbian military will leave, would that also include the para-military? Or will the NATO finally fight their ground war against them? We will see what the coming days will bring us.

This is a hard country to work in, in the last four weeks I have met different internationals who have been broken by this country. Who weren't able to serve out their contracts and had to leave before they had finished. Today I met again such a person, she had only been here a month, but knew the place from a few years back, when she had stayed almost a year here. In three days she would leave at last, she said: I nearly went crazy from this country. She had already more or less created a very heavy drinking habit, when we met early in the morning she was already drinking coffee and beer. Her function is to check on local NGO's who get financial aid from a foreign development organisation. And her problem is that hardly any of these local organisations work together. Moreover they are telling all the time about how the other organisation is not good or not doing good work. It is so hard to find out what is real and what is just stories, she said. "I give up on this, actually I don't believe anybody anymore, they are only after the money."

In a way I have made the same experiences, as a foreign NGO you are for the most part a walking wallet. People think that every organisation is rich and they don't realize that some of our volunteers make even less money than themselves. They think that all of us are stinking rich. Luckily the girls at the office are starting to understand that this is not the case, that we are actually more or less in a state of financial collapse. Now the fact that we have to pay a hotel in Vlora for our group there hasn't made any of it easier. But the reports from Vlora are great, they are doing a fine job down there. It seems that apart from some lonely internationals who are running camps down there and some people from World Vision and some Italian Boy Scouts, Vlora hasn't got the kind of overexposing to organisations that you can see here in Tirana or in Durres. Most organisations aren't really keen on going there, they think it's dangerous. But I heard yesterday that it isn't so dangerous as has been said. At least that is what our volunteers down there are saying, they feel safe.

It was a day with dozens of smaller and bigger meetings today. The kind of day that you see all the corners of Tirana in order to get smaller and bigger things organised. And the weather has been heavy the last few days, there is a kind of heatwave, it's so hot that even the local people are complaining that it is impossible to do anything. Our house is now almost three times a day out of water. Although Garry is filling 20-30 bottles each time there is water, apart from the 1000 liter on the roof, there is a kind of black hole in which our water seems to disappear.

One of the more important meetings today was the weekly one of NGO's who are doing community service activities, at UNHCR. The nice and friendly Japanese girl left last week, so it was taken over by somebody from India, who is actually only doing it for ten days, until some final replacement comes. This is one of these huge problems of UN bodies, they are changing their staff all the time. Just as you are building up a kind of relationship with one person, that person is already replaced with a new one, who doesn't know anything, and is basically trying to find out where he or she has landed this time. And that means that you have to tell your story over and over again.

The first point on today's meeting was raised by the shelter desk of the EMG (Emergency Mangement Group, NATO, UNHCR, Albanian state). They reported that the re-allocation from Kukes was about 1000 person per day, but stopped totally this weekend since nobody wants to move an inch, now the peace treaty is so near signing. Furthermore they reported that most camps in the south are now empty or half-empty, as nobody wants to go there. This is true especially for the big camp the Americans built in Fier for 25.000 people, it is hosting about 2.000 at this time, nobody really wants to go there. The most important reason is that it is lying in the sun the entire day and hardly any shade places were created. Even though it is a kind of five-star camp, the refugees don't want to go there, it is too big, too hot, too far from their normal way of living. People who were re-allocated there have even been leaving it in the last few days. The closing of collective centers in buildings in Fier hasn't helped much either, people just go to other places.

When all the camps which are now in the construction stage are completed, there will be, all in all - including those which are already finished - about 200.000 places in camps by the end of the week. UNHCR is asking all organisations not to start planning or building new camps, since the planning of a camp takes at least three weeks, building it at least four weeks, so by the time they are ready we are talking about the end of July. By the end of August people have to move out of tent camps as by then the rain and finally the winter will start. Besides that it is unclear how many people will stay through the winter in Albania. With other words building new camps with tents would be like throwing the money out of the window. The American camp for example has cost a gigantic amount of money while it appears at this moment that it is never really going to be used.

UNHCR furthermore declared that the first installment of 3.9 million dollar has been made to the Albanian government in order to pay the host families. So critical questions were raised about whether those host families who are now asking rent from the Kosovars are also going to be paid, and about what will happen with the Kosovars who rented rooms themselves, will they also get money? The UNHCR spokesmen had to admit that they never ever really looked into that last question. Are they going to be considered their own host family, it was asked, but the answer was that only people registrated as Albanian citizens can get a financial compensation for taking in refugees.

All in all it was a strange meeting and nobody really knows what the next weeks will bring us. On the one hand we are planning into the winter, on the other hand half of the NGO's have drawn up maps with were they will go in Kosov@. I wonder how many organisations will stay here in the coming weeks. Already enough are planning to move.

One other point was discussed today on the meeting, the point of who is allowed to do what. There is a real fight among NGO's going on, it sounds crazy, but there is. Some organisations signed some kind of contract with NGO's managing camps about providing specific services in some camps, and when they came other NGO's were already doing the same thing there. There have even been some court cases already taking places about this point. This of course only happens in the Tirana-Durres and the Kukes area. I never saw this before and I must say I am disappointed by it. I think that all NGOs in a way came here to help, not to sell their own trade. Be happy if somebody is doing what you were planning to do, at the end of the day we are here to help refugees and not to score points for our donors. There are enough people out there who don't get anything at all. Rather than fighting each other we should be able to work together.

Back home in the Sunflower house we started a discussion on how fast the Sunflowers should now move into Kosov@, some of our guests are now planning to go in in the upcoming days. I am not sure, I would like to have Sunflowers working in Kosov@ and especially in Serbia soon, but I fear that soon nobody will be left here to provide care to those people who wait and stay here. I am convinced that this problem is not solved by this peace-treaty. Although the Kosovars on the office are saying: don't take the positive feelings away from me. But look at Bosnia, let that be a lesson, over 700,000 people are still waiting. That's my reality, Kosov@ will be the big thing, but still....

No airplanes tonight, the peace treaty has finally been signed. Tommorrow the first Yugoslav army troops will start to move out and the first French troops and US marines are starting to move in. Finally the people in Serbia can sleep normally in their beds, without fear that some bomb will fall on their house because there may in the past have been some "important strategic" building, like what happened with the Chinese Embassy. By the way this is probably known in the west, also after some time, today it was finally in the press here, but NATO started to bomb military concentrations of Yugoslav army, they killed with one run over 500 drafted soldiers it was said in the local newspapers here. Today a peace treaty was signed, in some way I am thinking about the past and you may not agree with me, but killing people this way makes me dream about Hiroshima and other places.

wam :-)