O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 15 May 1999

Tirana 15 Mai 1999

Yesterday very late Mark and Adela came back from Kukes, they went there by NATO helicopter, they fly with the United Emirates. Bit of problem for Adela, since the role of women in those countries is a bit different as in middle Europe, but never the less. They spend about 8 hours in Kukes, visiting different camps, talked with lots of people from Kosovo, in german and croatian (Serbian), which not much Kosovarians had problems with, as long as it were foreigners. Allthough the local authority by now is taken over by the UCK who are strict on this, and when they wouldn´t have had a kind of foreign identification they would have been in huge problems.
For the rest their stories were as what you could expect from a place where 120.000 people are more or less camping in the open air, near to a kind of frontline. The biggest problem is that lots of the refugees there think that if they stay longer there they will die because of lack of water. Adela wanted to go there since in her country their hasn't been much reporting going on on this topic and the need that this refugees are getting out of there soon.
We have a kind of very mixed group of people here now in our Tirana Sunflower flat, beside Germany and Czeck republic, we have now America, Italia and Albania in the house. The Italian speaks only Italian, the Albanian speaks albanian, german and italian, the american only english. So we speak via translation with eachother. Mark or me have to translate the english from the american into german, in order that the albanian can translate it in Italian and visa versa.
Today started with a visit at UNHCR department of community services, since the programme officer was a bit late and we had some other appoitments the actual agreed 1 hour was sqeezed in 15 minutes, but we talked rather concrete. Problem is that UNHCR runned totally out of money, at least in this field. They can support some NGO's with materials, but not with money.. Hope that the budget will be refilled soon. In principle they liked our plans. But as said the money is gone and the priorities lay in other fields at this moment. Nevertheless when we come up with concrete plans for actions and activities they are willing to look into it.
Then I went (Adela had to go home to our house here, in order to pack her things, since later today she left for Praha) to see the Albanian NGO forum. With them I drove to one of the poorest parts of Tirana, a clearly off-limits zone for internationals, dangerous, not only for foreigners, but also for Albanians, but at day light no problem. In this part, what more or less looks like a subburb in a south american country, people are building, like everywhere in these countries, their own houses. That means that they finish one part and wait till they have money to build the next room or floor. So the whole area is more or less under construction and the roads are like what you can imagine, asfalt has disappaired years ago, waste dumps every where, open canalisation.
In the houses which are still like only four walls, people are still building on it, about over 1000 refugees are living, the owner allowed them to stay there. The relationship between the normal inhabitants and the refugees, which are growing with the day, is bad, very bad. Lots of the local families here are without father, he disappaired for some or another reason. And if the mothers or children hasn't got any meanings of income they simply can´t buy any food, since social benifits are not existing in this country. If you have no own income, forget it. In such a situation it is of course a bit strange that a few times a week a truck arrives which brings food for the refugees and nothing to them.
I went there with people from the NGO forum who organised some food for about 400 people (the amount of refugees from whom they known where there last week), but people came from everywhere and the only identification they had, to proof that they came from Kosov@ and wheren't living there (beside from the languages) were the same card I have in my pocket that I entered Albania at such and such date. Passports were of course gone and any proper registration and new temporary documents they didn't have. Most of this group came about 12 days ago in Albania, spend about 6 days in Kukes, got the offer to go to Tirana, were brought to the transit camp in the Dynamo Football stadium (what was without water yesterday) and heard that here there were other Kosovarian who they knew and just run off to this place.
It is not an official recognized refugee camp or so, partly the local authorities said, because of the fact that this part of town is runned by the democratic party and the government are the socialist party. Basically in politics no big different, Albanians told me, but mainly the Socialist are from the south of Albanian and the democrates from the North, but both leaders of the different parties are old-communist politicians. Those two parties are the main parties in this country. So it will be hard to get official support for the refugees here, they more or less are falling outside, since they are not in an official camp and they are not with host families.
In no time a meeting got organised in the side room of the local cafe house, which is as it looks like to rooms of the mayor. The mayor and the vice mayor, docter, local security guy (with his gun of course, police is not coming in this part of town), and so on popped up and I gave them an outlook from our ideas. And they promised me to help in all directions, they can supply us with an activity room and even a secure house for the night. I asked some other people (not from this area) later on if I should trust such promises and they said that since we were guests from the local authorities and help both refugees and albanians I can be absolute certain that we are safe. The "clan" will protect us.
Furtheron the Doctor told us that he visits most of the refugees families and "found" 2 teachers, 1 social worker, 1 leader of a youth center and a woman who worked on a women center among them. I was more or less only there to see how the situation was in this part of town and spend about 1 1/2 hour outside talking to refugees, some worked in Norway and Sweden and we managed to speak in english and my bad danish, some worked in Germany and spoke good german and even one guy spoke dutch, since he had been working for years in Rotterdam. They told me that they feel unsecure in this place and that their wives and children have to stay at home or can only go outside when they are with them. But knowing the culture from Kosov@ a bit, such reactions are not surprising. Most of the men anyway don't want their wives to go on the streets. Somewhere in the line some of the local kids start to try to talk to me, and a situation came that the kosovarians where translating for me what the local kids where saying. I asked if they went to school and so, and they told me that most of the kids in this part don't go, since it is to far away or they don't have money for it, or what ever. Then a young girl came who spoke perfect german and it ended in a kind of very open discussion how the presense of internationals could help this part of town, not only the refugees, but everybody. I was rather disappointed that somebody came to pick me up and meet the local vips.
During all the talks I was offered cigarettes and raki, but I kept saying that I don't smoke before 12 and don't drink alcohol before 5 o'clock, so they all kept pushing untill 12 and 9 people offered me a cigarette and the same time and asked me to stay until 5. Of course the local authorities tried to give me big lists of their needs and so. But somehow I managed to keep that part away from me, I learned something in the last 7 years. I made them clear that we can't offer them emergency help, but that we are able to help them explaining their situation to an international community and that they maybe can organise help. To round of I promised to come back soon and later in the afternoon so they can offer me the local self made raki.
From this place we went to the other side of the town, were another small group (about 300 people) are hosted in almost 5 star conditions. A rich kosovarian who came to albania 20 years ago was in the middle of the building, a kind of super villa (in the mids of a similar type of area as discribed before) and offered this thing to Kosovarians. When we arrived at this place it was full with big stickers of some Turkiesh organisation, who just brought some things there. This is like a war between aid organisations, the first one who put his stickers up claims the place as being their center. At some of this centers the stickers are even put over each other. This sounds crazy, but that is the way it goes.
Claiming a place means that you can make PR with it, etc. It doesn't mean, by the way, that when you once put up your stickers you are totally taking care of such a place. It mostly is enough to deliver ones some humanitarian aid, making your picture and never come back. It is a bit like this organisations who claim to do camp manegement of the big collective centers, but never show up. In the last week I asked over and over again who is actually deciding about which organisation is running which camp. If somebody has put any guidelines and so on for camp manegement, but it seems to be unknown by everybody. The bigger international organisations seem to handle it among themselves, they know the experiences from the different organisations a bit. But there were local NGO's claiming camp manegement for certain centers, it seems to be a question of having the right connections (there is a lot of money involved).
It shows that this can lead to horrible situations, f.e. that organisations with only 50 members or so, which normally are running a cultural center are suddenly responsible for 10 or more camps, (which makes it up to 15.000 or even 20.000 people in total), without the slidest experiences or even human power enough. The result is that refugees are even fleeing from those camps after a while (this of course is not to be understood as generalistion, there are some "local" NGO are doing their part good. But he, were do you learn such things. Something like this never happened (suddenly far over 5000.000 refugees coming in) in this country. And it is obvious everybody somehow tried to get something out of this sudden attention and money coming to this country.

Ofcourse I can write more, but that is for tomorrow, this radio tirana goes to bed and dream (hopefully).....