The United Nations refugee agency has ended its emergency shelter programme for refugees in Montenegro, closing its last collective centre in the Balkan nation which is home to 24,000 people who fled from Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On Monday, the Trudbenik Collective Centre, which opened in 1993 in the central cit of Niksic, was shuttered.
Its 65 residents were moved into family apartments in a new building called the European House, which is owned by municipal authorities. The move was made possible by funding from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners.
The new residence “offered a more dignified life and future for all those who have moved into it,” said Serge Ducasse, UNHCR’s Representative to Montenegro.
But he stressed that many refugees require assistance in accessing proper housing, as they still reside in sub-standard, privately-owned homes or are squatting in informal collective centres.
One of the last residents of the Trudbenik Collective Centre could not contain her delight at moving to their new home after 9 years.
“We still cannot believe it,” said Gordana Vekic. “Although the flat is owned by the municipality, this is now our home! We finally have our own door, our own bathroom, our freedom.”
But Mr. Ducasse warned that international support is still crucial to help refugees integrate who can or will not return to their home countries. “It is time they are provided with a legal status that gives them real local integration opportunities and allows them to contribute to their new society of adoption.”