Albania December 1998 Trip Report
A delegation representing the Kosovo Refugee Information
System and Network (KRISYS NET) from Chicago-Kent College of Law,
Illinois Institute of Technology visited to Tirana, Albania from
December 15 until December 18, 1998. That delegation consisted
of C-K Associate Dean, Harold Krent, Director of Institutional
Projects, IV Ashton, and IIT-undergraduate student, Lwin Maung.
Our initial goal was to establish the KRISYS NET computer
network in the Tirana office of the Soros Foundation's Open Society
Institute (OSI). Before we left on the trip, we designed and developed
the network in Chicago, then transported and installed it in Tirana.
At the core of KRISYS NET computer network is a high-end Internet
server and an Ethernet hub, which through six external modems,
creates an information Intranet in Tirana.
The second goal was to connect an Internet server to
the World Wide Web through the OSI offices in Tirana. This was
accomplished by using a VSAT 64 kbms satellite connection. We
also arranged for Ilir Zenku from the Soros Foundation to assist
us in maintaining our network.
Our third goal was to create and install a database
with the purpose of tracking critical information about Kosovar
refugees in Albania, including relief services that are provided
to the refugees by various international organizations. As discussed
below, our KRISYS NET team met with the Albanian Office of Refugees,
the agency responsible for registering and providing assistance
to refugees in Albania. Together, we developed a system using
the KRISYS NET database and Internet server to assist in AOR's
efforts in registering and tracking refugee flows in Albania.
This partnership is particularly important to non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) working in the region, as it provides a centralized
mechanism to collect and to disseminate critical information to
international relief organizations.
While in Tirana, we also formed partnerships with the
Catholic Relief Services, and the International Federation of
the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Initially, these organizations
will input data about supplies given to, and locations of, the
refugees. Other organizations such as the OSCE, UNHCR, World Food
Program, United Nations Development Program, and the International
Committee of the Red Cross will then access information in the
database, thus enabling them to determine the location of the
refugees more accurately and to assess the true needs of the refugees.
Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Metting with Timothy Isles, Deputy Head of Presence
and Bengt Holmen, Operation Officer
We were briefed both on the function of OSCE and on
the current situation for refugees in Albania. The OSCE viewed
its role primarily to monitor the border and to track refugees.
Their best guess is that there are now 20,000 refugees within
Albania's borders. Tracking refugees, however, has been a nightmare.
They suggested several reasons. First, unlike with other refugee
situations, the refugees are dispersed across the country -- some
in the cities, some with relatives in the countryside, and some
in refugee centers. Compounding the problem was the relative mobility
of this group. Refugees within a two-month period might travel
from a center to stay with relatives in another city, and then
travel to a city in search of work, or more problematically, in
search of additional refugee handouts. Registration cards are
easy to forge and one refugee group is unaware of what another
has given to the same family because the groups have divided responsibilities
into geographic areas. One final difficulty lies in the fact that
in the North of Albania, it is very difficult for any relief to
make it there intact. So, to reach a place like Kukes, aid groups
must travel in convoy or be threatened with hijacking. In terms
of a wish list, OSCE suggested if we could improve the registration
system, then the waste -- of up to 33 per cent of food and clothing
supplies -- could be limited. He advised that we should pursue
our two goals -- 1) improving the registration system and creating
a centralized database -- as expeditiously as possible.
At the OSCE we were also briefed on the communication
system within Albania. There was a better information structure
than we expected replete with VHF and HF frequencies, refugee
groups and OSCE could communicate by set fax and set phone without
much difficulty. Finally, we were advised to contact the Red Cross,
the CRS, the World Food Program, the Office of Albanian Refugees,
and the UNHCR.
with Scott Carlson, head of ACCAPP
Our second meeting at the OSCE concerned their efforts
in support of the new Constitution just approved by Albania's
electorate, albeit with large abstentions from Berisha's party.
OSCE had been extremely active in communicating the message about
the new Constitution to villages and towns to encourage widespread
participation throughout the country. Scott Carlson, with whom
we talked, was extremely positive about the steps the country's
leaders took, and rued the fact that the opposition party had
not supported the process. We received a memo sketching the steps
that the government followed prior to promulgation of the Constitution,
and that memo bolsters Carlson's contentions. On a minimum budget,
and more importantly with limited democratic traditions, the Constitution
did evolve with relatively widespread input and changes were made
up until the vote. Moreover, Scott has been collecting information
from the Constitutional Court as it starts its new life. The information
superstructure is such that there is no official reporting system
and decisions of the courts are hard to find. He suggested that,
when we meet with the World Bank, that we ask about their efforts
to support growth of the Albanian judicial system.
Madalene O'Donnell, Consultant
We met the next day with Madalene O'Donnell from the
World Bank. The World Bank has made a one million dollar grant
to help the health, education, and water systems throughout the
country. They do not address refugee plans directly, but agreed
that our aspiration to help rationalize the process seemed sound.
She worried somewhat about security concerns because she did not
think that the Office of Albanian Refugees would necessarily wish
to permit unbridled access to a database by all NGOs. She was
very excited, however, about our discussion of Project Bosnia
and related that discussions in the World Bank were now underway
to help improve the court system in Albania. We suggested that
we could be helpful in three ways: By creating Intranets to link
government officials more closely together; by linking courts
together to facilitate communication; and/or by creating a net
based information system to make legal information more readily
attainable to lawyers, judges and citizens alike. She suggested
that we contact her again and perhaps arrange a meeting with World
Bank officials in D.C. She thought that we should or could be
a part of whatever they do in Albania.
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR)
Tham Meechubot, Head of the Liason Office
We met with Tham Meechubot who headed the UNHCR office
in Tirana, which is in charge of directing all refugee matters.
Unlike the others with whom we spoke, he saw no need for improved
information technology, and said he was so swimming in information
he couldn't process it now. In addition, he said that, even if
refugee info were centralized, it might be difficult to share
it with other NGOs. He said that he would cooperate with us if
directed to do so by headquarters in Geneva.
While Mr. Meechubot was for the most part unhelpful,
it is worth noting that in later correspondence, he was supportive
of our efforts and said that he would express his support to other
Albanian Office of Refugees
Enton Lita, Director
The Albanian Office of Refugees is responsible for
registering and tracking all refugees entering Albania. It is
not surprising that the AOR's job has become rather difficult
given the problems in Kosovo, especially given undistinguishable
physical attributes between Kosovar-Albanians and Albanians. While
two registration programs have been attempted, both have fallen
victim to fraud and the forces of the black market.
We met with Enton Lita, the director of AOR to discuss
ways for us to use our Internet server and database to assist
in his production of refugee identification cards. We agreed on
a system that involves his office creating refugee identification
cards by typing a form into computer, which in turn prints the
relevant information on the ID card and assigns an identification
number to the refugee. That information is then entered into our
database. Refugee organizations require the refugee ID card before
they distribute supplies and can then track needs and the location
of the refugees. That information will be reported back to the
Open Society Institute
We met with Ilir Zenku, the director of the Open Internet
Center at the Soros Foundation. He is very impressive and seems
to have a wealth of technical knowledge. We agreed that our server
would be located at the Open Internet Center and connected to
the World Wide Web through Soros' Internet connection. He and
his assistant helped Lwin set up the server and get it connected.
We also installed the necessary software. The server is currently
online at krisys.soros.al (or at 188.8.131.52). Lwin installed
Microsoft © Office 97, Frontpage 98, War-FTP ver 1.64, PC Anywhere
Version 8 as well as Microsoft © Internet Information Server II
ver. 4.0. The logins and passwords for the programs as well as
administrator access to the system are attached in appendix II.
Lwin also made an account for SOROS Albania so that if the server
goes down, the SOROS technical assistant can reboot it.
Ilir informed us that SOROS has capabilities to use
UHF/VHF to setup a computer network. If we use computer network
using radio communication however, we can only get up to maximum
of 9600bps. He also told us that there is a 90% automated telephone
lines in Albania so we may even be able to use phones as a mean
of communication for our network.
We arranged for Ilir (and/or one of his assistants)
to work for KRISYS NET. We agreed that he would maintain the server
as well as help us keep our database current. Ilir, however, is
leaving Albania in April to get married and in June he is moving
to Chicago. We discussed him working for the University when he
Catholic Relief Services
Chuck Juhn, Project Manager
In what was probably the most enlightening and encouraging
meeting, we met with Chuck Juhn, the program manager at CRS. Chuck
had already developed a preliminary database, which he gladly
showed to us. His database was well-developed and included refugee's
personal information and relief distribution patterns. This helped
us formulate an idea of what relief organizations wanted for the
Refugee ID cards and refugee information forms. From those discussions,
Lwin designed and developed an ID/information collection database.
One interesting, and disturbing, thing that Chuck told
was that the local Albanians are as poor (if not poorer) than
the Kosovar refugees and that they are making fake IDs to obtain
relief supplies. In some cases, the refugees have duplicated IDs
and are getting multiple quota of food. In one instance, the distributed
population was twice as large as the actual number listed on the
official distribution list.
Chuck agreed to let us use him as a guinea pig. He
will take the assigned AOR refugee number and monitor the relief
that is given in a particular area. He will then input that data
into our database. This will help us better develop the way we
collect and organize data. Our initial hypothesis is that we will
have to change the data collection forms.
Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Ola Kristian Hegge, Relief Co-ordinator Delegate
Gorkhmaz Husseynov, Relief/Logistics Delegate
Our final meeting was with the IFRC. They only have
three people in the office in Tirana and four people in the field.
As such, it is very important for them to know how much food and
supplies to send, and where to send it. They agreed that automating
their system would greatly improve their efficiency. They agreed
that they would monitor the refugees by the official AOR number
and would input the data into our database. However, we most likely
will have to get some people from Soros to help them input the
Pentium II 450 with 512k L2 Cache with 64 MB RAM, CDROM, 6.4 GB
HDD, Zip drive, ethernet card, no modem.
Flat Screen 15" autoswitching voltage supply with speakers
on KRISYS-NET: MS Office
97, Windows NT server (5 Seat), War-FTP server version 1.64, MS
IIS2 Version 4, PC-Anywhere version 8.0, MS Frontpage 98 and Frontpage
Server IP and needed informations:
www address : krisys.soros.al