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Strengthening national and local systems to support effective socio-economic integration of returnees in the Western Balkans

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“Strengthening national and local systems to support effective socio-economic integration of returnees in the Western Balkans” is part of the IAP II multi-country action program entrusted to UNDP, the WB and the CoE, to support the rights fundamentals of the Roma community. and other vulnerable returnees, in three Western Balkan countries, namely Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia.

The project is being implemented to respond to the reintegration of a significant number of EU returnees in recent years, as the Western Balkan countries were declared “safe countries of origin”. In 2017, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia were among the 20 countries with the highest number of nationals with irregular residence status in the EU. Limited work opportunities, low-paid jobs, the size of the informal sector and the poor quality of health and education services, due among other things to neglect and disinvestment in social infrastructure, are some of the main drivers of emigration.

In this context, the project strengthens the capacities of Western Balkan authorities to implement comprehensive solutions for the economic and social empowerment of returnees. By addressing the root causes and negative drivers of migration of Roma and vulnerable populations, the project contributes to the implementation of a broader social inclusion agenda in the Western Balkans.

The ultimate goal of the project is to translate the tested models into national regulations and public policies and programs for the sustainable reintegration of vulnerable returnees, while UNDP primarily addresses challenges at the local level.

The project works closely with local institutions responsible for providing services for the reintegration of returnees, with a focus on people from the Roma and Egyptian ethnic minority, with local civil society actors and the community of local business. The returnee community is considered both a beneficiary and a partner during implementation, with the aim of creating ownership of the planned actions by the returnees themselves.

The project addresses a variety of key barriers to reintegration, including but not limited to,

  • developed local action plans (Berat, Fier and Devoll) for the reintegration of returnees;
  • supported local government institutions to improve service delivery and meet the reintegration needs of returnees through the establishment of multi-stakeholder platforms and a case management protocol;
  • provided personalized support to the growth of over 210 individuals, reflecting their education, skills, experience, preferences and career aspirations by equipping returnees with a set of soft, technical and digital skills to enhance their employability on the formal labor market;
  • helped 32 returnees with entrepreneurial potential start their own businesses;
  • supported the implementation of community cohesion programs through small grants to local NGOs, reaching more than 850 returnees to date;
  • improved access to social and administrative services for more than 250 returnees, notably through the use of digital tools (E-Albania);
  • capacity building of NGOs and public service providers for effective service delivery, including through the application of new digital tools.

Importantly, based on the learning and knowledge accumulated during implementation, the project aims to promote regional dialogue between policy makers and practitioners, on topics important for sustainable reintegration returnees, in order to provide a space for the exchange of points of view. and experience between policy makers and policy practitioners.

In Albania, this project is implemented in the municipalities of Fieri, Devolli and Berati.

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