O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 20 May 1999

Tirana 20 Mai 1999

As I promised I would start today with the meeting about community activities coordination at UNHCR. By now you start to recognise the faces and the organisations they are working for. Most of them are the real big ones, one organisations I never have met so far although I know that they are here and very involve in Kukes, the German Cape Anamur. They simply work completely alone. In Germany they collected over 40 million DM and that is big money, so I hope somewhere in the line to meet them and talk about some cooperation, Balkan Sunflowers working as kind of cultural wing in their camp in Kukes, but as said they never show up.
Anyway the major topic was the safety of refugees. Although there are a lot of rumours from people who have seen fancy cars coming into camps and have talks with the young girls, offering them a kind of job in Italia, up to now no real hard reports have been showing up at UNHCR. Nobody so far has reported official such an incident. Nevertheless the stories continue and lot's of qeustions were raised about the rights and status of refugees. For what kind of safety and treatment can they ask accoording to their international agreed rights. UNHCR promised to produce soon a paper explaining this status and rights.
When I wrote the first time about it, some people reacted that this was a madhouse, this is not even a country in war, so there should be some kind of law and order. There is definitive some kind of law and order here, there is even police, I just saw a police guy beating somebody up because he didn't move his car fast enough, the police agent just open the car door and started kicking at the person. But in the protection of refugees their are not really the best ones in the country. They hang around at the entries of camps, with their automatic riffles, looking very bored and with an absolute desinterst in their eyes for what they are supposed to do.
The next qeustion in the meeting was related to this one was the protection of refugees versus journalists. Like in Croatia and Bosnia there are a lot of journalists in the field looking for the real wild stories. Going into the camps and offering moeny to people if they can come up with children who lost their families, women who got raped, men who are beaten up, etc. The worse story the better, most of this is only paid with a few bucks, if paid at all. Besides that the reports who are later published are mostly not directly in corelation to the actual stories which have been told, journalists add their little extra to it, making it worse. But they often use the real names, indirectly also endangering these people, since their stories get out in the open and you never know what kind of reactions this can produce.
That's by the way one of the reasons that I refer to people as a person, or a refugee in a camp, without going into big details, not to make it too easy later to track these people down, a kind of protection to the people I talk too.
Secondly these journalist are not aidworkers, they just want the story, the reactions afterwards, trauma from remembering, going through the whole story once more, without any psychological support has to be solved afterwards by their relatives, since most camps haven't got the specialist in place yet to deal with these traumas. So the qeustions were if you are able to refuse journalists in camps and how. If they are coming with all the appropriate documents giving them access to sites what can you do. And besides that most refugees are not living in organised camps, a clever journalist can find them anywhere. It was asked if UNHCR can't make a set of guidelines for journalists and maybe organise briefings for them how they should behave.
Thirdly the qeustion was raised how to protect refugees from aidworkers, more and more people (both domestic as well as from abroad) are coming and doing psycho-social interview work. We know this also from Croatia and Bosnia. This can be students, who like to do their theses on the psycho-social parts of being a refugee, but also organisations which have a good intention, but are simply not yet aware of the damage they can do. Especially in the psycho-social field you can do a lot of damage to people minds if you are not knowing 100% what you are doing. Again UNHCR was asked to make some guidelines on this as well.
Last but not least a discussion came on the table which no body really want to put in the open, but starts to become more and more a kind of question for a lot of organisations. There are a lot of really religious organisations moving into this country, buying more or less camps and have almost unlimited resources. But they turn this camps into religios camps, and I am talking firstly about islamic, but also about some christian organisations. They take over existing camps, and build their own ones, controlling it 100% and don't let any other NGO in. This discussion was stopped, it didn't really was part of safety. but surely will be brought up in the next NGO coordination meeting as a problem.
This is by the way a known problem, it happened also in Croatia and Bosnia, but there it wasn't possible to build own camps or to overtake camps, the government had in the end the responsibility, which is also here the case, but either the government is not really taken power, either they agree with these things. Anyway almost everybody knows what it means when a camp is runned by let say an Islamic organisation f.e., it means that everything goes accoording the koran, inclusive the school. Most of the kosovarian are so-called muslim. During the almost 500 years Turkish ruling of this part of the balkan they more or less pragmatically said that they are member of islam. But it is not so that they are strong believers. Like in Bosnia however the Islamic countries come to help the islamic brothers here, in a way which lot's of Kosov@ people are not really happy with. I mean they are not asked if they want to live in a muslim camp, or a christian camp, or a whatever camp. This is the faith of refugees, they are not asked if they want to live here or there, if they want to stay in tents or in old factory halls. Mostly they are even not told who is doing what and where. Refugees just have to adopt the place they some how co-incidently got shelter in.
For the rest it is the time from the important visits to Albania, after Hilery Clinton, Toni Blair, today family Kafi Anan was in the country. Himself went to the north visiting Kukes, his wife made a tour through refugee camps in Tirana, together with the wife of the Albanian President, Mrs. Mejdani. One of the first places they visited was of course the lakesite camp, and UNICEF who is now pushing so called "Children Friendly Spaces" everywhere in the country had to build up such a place there soon, before Mrs. Anan would arrive in the camp. So they really pushed it and now it is their pilot and presentation project.
Allthough it is generally said that not everybody should walk in and out of refugee camps, and into the more private parts of it, looking in the tents of the families or in the school, this seems to be not the case for the lake site camp. There almost the whole world runs through the place, opening up tent sleeves and just look into the tents, making photos, without even asking. The refugees their must feel like animals in a zoo. Each arriving official gets his tour through the camp. And it is a wonder that the little children are not boldheaded yet, the amount of people passing through and going with their hands over their heads is enourmous. And if the dentists see how much candies these kids are getting he would be making a lot of noise.
Walking back from some meeting in town I passed by an Italian icecream shop, at that moment an italian military police car stops and three guys, with helmet, automatic riffles, flatjackets, special pistols come out and go for an icecream. They had the orders never to leave their weapons in the car, otherwise they would be stolen out of the car (or the whole car would be gone), but this on the other side looks even more idiotic. Imagine you are nice and peacefully enjoying your icecream and suddenly a group comes in totally frontline war uniform, with their aggressive looking gear. You immediatly think that the Italian police is now also starting with hold-ups. Or that they are coming in to arrest the head of a maffia-gang or so. By the way all those foreign policemen are in the country to safeguard it a bit. Especially in the villages and cities in the mid south, like Buret and Gramsh, the situation is like on Sicilia, that's why they send special troops of Italian police down there.
One of the aid-organisations nearby got a very unpleasant visit yesterday evening, three masked men with guns came in and wanted their money and mobile telephones. Since they are in construction of camps they really have a lot of money in there, every thing in this country goes in cash. Banks and checks are not trusted, so constructors only believe in banknotes, green ones from america. Nothing really bad had happened to the people who where in the office had to lay on the floor and they opened the safe, took the expensive things and went off. On the frontdoor they took of their masks and took a look at the camera there, so in any case the Tirane police got some nice video pictures from them. But if that helps.

wam :-)