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Trip Reports

KRISYS NET Trip Report

Tirana, Albania March 1999


A team from Chicago-Kent College of Law visited Tirana, Albania to continue implementation of the Kosovo Refugee Information System and Network (KRISYS NET), one of the projects being conducted by Chicago-Kent's "Project Bosnia" Inter-Professional Project (IPRO). The delegation, consisting of Assistant Dean Charles Rudnick, Project Leader IV Ashton, and law students Mary Beth Goodman and Tom Beris, worked in Tirana from March 15 through March 18, 1999. The trip was made possible by a grant from the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute.

OVERVIEW & OBJECTIVES

The purpose of the trip was threefold:

1. Continue implementing the KRYSIS NET database and update the registration of refugees on the database, which was designed by engineers from the Illinois Institute of Technology and installed in the Soros Foundation Open Society Institute office in Tirana in December 1998;

2. Gather data information relevant to the refugees and NGOs concerning the services and relief efforts available in Albania, including food, shelter, medical assistance, etc.; and

3. Meet with lawyers and other officials in an effort to gather information about the legal system in Albania.

Through these discussions, the team was able to incorporate suggestions for improving the database, as well as to increase the number of refugees actually registered in the database to 27, 000. By gathering information from the various non-governmental organizations involved with the refugee crisis and from the Albanian Office of Refugees, the team began implementation of the next phase of KRYSIS NET in which information concerning services directly needed by the refugees will be published on the Internet in an effort to disseminate this information to a greater number of people. Additionally, the team met with individuals in the Albania legal system to gather laws and to gain an understanding of the fragile legal infrastructure within the country so that these laws, as well as explanations of these laws, can be published on the Internet for dissemination to the citizens of Albania.

REPORT OF MEETINGS:

Soros Foundation-Ilir Zekeu

  • Ilir expressed concern for the lack of information available to individuals and also expressed a need for some distribution method for disseminating information to refugees and suggested that someone should contact the local radio and television stations to get contact points for distributing leaflets when refugees move.


  • Albanian virtual community is large but lack any PR for KRYSIS Net--- Ilir is co-owner of distribution list and can also have NGOs themselves print information to distribute


  • Ilir suggested that we consult these websites:

    1) Alb-net.com-- Kosovo Crisis Center

    2) Arthur - Albanian News Agency

    3) www.kosovo.com

    4) KLA News Agency- best Kosovo Press

    After initial meeting, Ilir reviewed the database and discussed suggestions with us for improvements.

    Several adjustments need to be made:

    1) needs to be way that each NGO can log in separately for input and prepare own form;

    2) need to have some empty fields in database for organizations to input those items which are unique or would not be given out

    3) AOR Id- Unique Id

    4) Must have browse Previous/ Next Option

    5) Need to have search filter for each distribution location (ex: Pristina or Tirana)

    6) need to view only the data and not the top tool bars so that do have option of making changes to database

    7) AOR number needs to be more visible -- bold, bigger, and move to better view location

    8) move health field-- want to have related fields together

    9) distribution button doesn't work

    10) tab order is inconsistent

    11) MOST IMPORTANT: need to have link from AOR Id number to Family Id number and then again to Family Id number for distributions

    12) age is calculated by date of birth but doesn't stop there- needs to be accurate

    13) district can be roll up-- for instance can type Ti or De and get city to automatically input

    14) need to make 2 forms- split based on fields and other for browse but use same table so that can update changes easily

    15) MOST IMPORTANT #2-- need to have basket filter (based on CRS) in which can enter family id and basket-- this would alleviate having to input each item receive and save considerable time in field

Catholic Relief Services- Chuck Jahn

Chuck proved to be an invaluable contact for gathering information about the distribution of aid to the refugees. Chuck expressed some concerns about the methods used by other organizations and noted a need for stronger coordination and information sharing among the active organizations. Some of the information which Chuck relayed to the group concerning the refugee situation and relief distribution was as follows:

  • problem with current method used by AOR is that lack any method to cross references and check for duplicate registration
  • explained method used by CRS to register refugees and distribute food and supplies; thinks is necessary to have Date of Birth included in registration process.
  • distributions must include information in way that enables NGO to track for inter- sector movement problem-- CRS is feeding into AOR but not from AOR down to CRS--
  • AOR lacks method to track for duplicate entries which results in unclean data-- refugees are leaving for Italy and Greece but CRS unsure if these are taken out of official system records kept by AOR
  • general demographic figures are used for food purchase as well as census demographics-- have a system ration list on monthly basis that fixes at one of distribution locations
  • CRS method of cross reference uses ID card with signature, ration delivery list (refugee must sign when receives goods) and also location list with signature-- all three signatures must match and have random checks to verify
  • CRS has 3 different "baskets" of food and supplies that are distributed-- basic, supplemental, and complementary-- SEE list of goods included in each basket
  • CRS and Red Cross use same method for distributing flour-- send flour to bread mills instead of flour to individual-- instead of giving each individual flour- have unique system in Albania where flour is given to bread mills to bake bread-- bread mill gets to keep portion of flour to use for business' baking and refugees are provided with fresh bread to use(Red Cross has 14 kilos per month) --- 1 kilo bread = 1 kilo flour (in theory is loaf of bread per day per person)
  • CRS has developed categories which indicate whether refugee is vulnerable and therefore entitled to more aid: categories include- pregnancy, lactating, chronic illness, over age of 60 or under age 14, acute disease or emotional, physical or mental disability
  • people on the street can buy an AOR card for as little as $50. Many refugees don't register for various reasons such as:
    • 1) conflict between registering with the Albanian govt and then claiming asylum- must claim in first country in which register and given the state of Albania itself this is not always the best country to provide benefits for refugees

      2) if have been involved with Kosovo military then is a fear of reporting and having name appear on list; are some Serbs within Albania and many Kosovar fear that will be reported and then become target

      3) AOR has issued 3 separate cards- now are under 3rd in which must register for all of family) and also problem of actual location of AOR office in some cities because refugees must pass by property which is known to be hostile

        • food distribution is based on 1,950 calories per person (required by UNHCR?) and are certain quantities of goods which are required for distribution (mandate by WFP which also requires that have scales at distribution points)
        • CRS has launched a project for vocational computer training in Windows, Exel, Word, etc.-- currently have 200-300 in training
        • expressed need to have laptop computers at distribution points to expedite the distribution process and to help with cross reference system developed


Head of the Office of the Republic of Kosovo in Albania- Ilaz Ramajli

        This office opened in 1992 and is a recognized diplomatic office-- since March 1997 has dealt with refugee problem as the first point of contact with refugees - find housing, clothing, and help with registration process however office work is hampered by the poor status of Albania itself-- Northern area of country is worst and poorest but is where largest number of refugees are currently located.

        In Mid-Sept were 28,000 refugees in Albania-- now have 10, 000-12, 000

        Ambassador expressed thanks for our efforts but also stressed that this would be more useful and more beneficial if based in Kosovo because if peace talks are successful refugees will begin returning soon and will need similar way to register them in Kosovo itself

        AOR info is not great because not all refugees want to have or can get Id cards-- this is problem because humanitarian organizations are basing figures for monetary contributions and for supply distribution on the amount of refugees who have registration cards; talk of each refugee getting 1000 lek from govt but can only get if have name registered

        Conditions in Albania are bad but is worse in other areas: Hungary is the worst because refugees are also suffering from human rights violations as well-- thinks scope of project should also include Hungary--

        Were 40, 000 refugees in Montenegro in Sept- maybe less now or more but no accurate figures; also 30,000 to 50, 000 from Bulgaria and Czech Republic

        Are some refugees who won't return so will need as much information about immigration and emigration as possible for as many East European countries as possible and what each government will require for registration process, etc.

        Albania didn't have refugee law until very recently- have been few violations of law by refugees here (20 instances reported) and this office has had contact with- all have had rights protected

        Need to get info about Penal Code- this is important in Kosovo because peace meeting will leave need for education on law and hope is to prevent cultural conflicts by providing laws

        Sees importance of project more with long term focus- NATO need to stay more than 3 years and these types of projects are important for success of Kosovo autonomy

        Major problem is with families who are split up because have no contact among members- information on this database could help provide access and much needed information

        Explanation also needed for when refugee doesn't have id or passport-- 5% of refugees have docs when arrive-- can register without but only in Tirana and Pristina-- no process for allowing refugees to get any other sort of identification papers

        Sees the problem with this database in that NGOs are always at same place or with am goods and refugees are developing habit of shopping around [this would actually be greater justification for database and for donating laptops for use at distribution center]

        This office is great source of knowledge on refugee needs because have daily contact with groups- were introduced to the Attache for Refugees Musa Rexhaj and set up a trip to visit with some refugees the next afternoon.

United Nations High Commission on Human Rights-Jim Worrall

        UNHCR has plan for influx of up to 50, 000 refugees- realizes that many don't register but must have projection for headquarters and to plan for supplies (states that 10,000 is more practical figure for influx)

        Many don't register because are self sufficient and don't need assistance at present and many are fearful of war crime charges if ever return to Kosovo under a Serb control

        Have sufficient supplies to feed for 4 to 5 months and estimate are 18,000 refugees now (but far less than that registered or receding aid)

        Problem with ALBANIA situation is that govt has not placed any restrictions upon movement of refugees-- are integrated into society and are allowed to move about freely whenever and wherever

        Macedonia has agreed to accept 20, 000 but problem is that Serbs are not allowing people to leave Kosovo area now; Montenegro is shut down and not accepting any more refugees

        NGOs will be most needed if/ when people decide or can go back- lack total infrastructure in Kosovo

        Serbia is crushing Kosovo because this is weakest link and if allowed autonomy then other areas would demand also; is a 5 km gap along the border that has been destroyed in order to keep the distance between-- is an effort to hamper refugees from having ability to go back

Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Shpresa Kureta, Acting Director of Department of Americas and ???, Desk Officer for U.S.A.

      Both officials expressed a need for us to collect information from international agencies but also from the Albanian government as well. They thought that it would be extremely important to get information out to the refugees, and were willing to give what information they could, but they did not offer anything substantial that we could use. The government looks to the UNDP but this organization is very limited in the assistance that it can provide to Albania itself. We were able to give a computer presentation on the scope of our project and discussed with them the long term goals of publishing legal information relevant to the Albanian citizens as well as the refugees. The officials were very receptive to our project and we also discussed the possibility of creating a homepage for Foreign Minister's office as well as Internet access through Soros. They expressed a desire to get involved, but said that they had only limited Internet access. While they could get e-mail at any time, their access to the Internet was only portioned out for certain times by UNDP. We offered to perhaps give them access to our dial-in server in Tirana so that they could get on the Internet anytime that they wanted. We also offered to take any information that they would give us in their Office, and put it up on the Website. While this might be helpful to them, Soros does not want to cause any friction between it and UNDP, so the decision as to whether or not to arrange for Soros to give the Ministry Internet access should be considered carefully, we do not want to look like we are overstepping our bounds.

       

Albanian Office of Refugees- Enton Lita (National Commissioner for Refugees)

        Stressed that needed to share information among agency and NGOs, AOR's goal and mandate by the government is to coordinate and play lead role in refugee relief but due to financial constraints have looked to UNHCR.

        Explained the AOR card process: the AOR card lasts for 6 months and during that time are verifying refugee ID in the field to prevent fraud. After 6 month time period each refugee must then re-register with AOR. This is done because the refugees are very migratory and are leaving Albania to go to Italy or Greece. An AOR id issued in Tirana is not good in any other part of the country so government hopes to limit mobility of refugees.

        Albania has just passed an asylum law which will need to be implemented for those refugees who will not return to Kosovo. The asylum law is presently "frozen"- Albania is providing food and work for asylum seekers but now can't do so because of social problems within Albania itself. Currently, the AOR is aware of 35 refugees who are seeking asylum in Albania

      The refugee's children are to be enrolled in the Albanian schools but there is a problem with a lack of books for their use. The Albanian government had allocated a certain number of books to be printed in Italy but the influx of refugees is too large for the government to absorb with sufficient supplies such as books. The AOR Director claims that 80% of the Kosovar refugee children have books for use in schools and there have been no problems with the integration.

Tirana University Law School- Dean Vasilika Hysi

        Gave power point demonstration to explain the scope of our current project. The Dean seemed very receptive to our ideas and efforts and expressed a desire to receive a printed project description that she could then share with the law school faculty.

        The Dean also expressed interest in the on-line discussion groups that would be available on KRYSIS Net and volunteered to have some of her students from the Northern portion of Albania to write short papers about their experiences which could then be posted on our server. We also suggested that if any of the faculty would want to have their work published on the Internet and then available for discussion that we could possibly be able to provide the law school with a connection to our server at Soros. The Dean was very interested in having an Internet connection for the law school and asked up to send her more information about this as well and also about the possibility of developing a web site for the law school.


Office of the Republic of Kosovo Attache for Refugees- Musa Rexhaj

        Musa escorted the delegation to refugee distribution centers and living quarters in Durres, a city approximately 40 km from Tirana. The group was able to visit with Kosovar refugees and to discuss the current situation with them. All of the refugees expressed a strong desire to return to their homeland and were anxiously awaiting NATO action in the region. The group was able to discuss the distribution methods implemented bu the NGOs as well as the efforts underway by the Albanian Office of Refugees with those who were the intended recipients of the aid.


Geo Comp Company (GCC)

        GCC is the company which created the legal database of Albanian laws. This database contains all of the current Albanian laws but is also updated every month or so. The initial database cost around sixty dollars (US) and each subsequent disk with updates cost another $14. The total at this point came to just over $200. The database appears to work very well. Although the bodies of the statutes are in Albanian, there is an English option which allows you to see the titles of the statutes in English, as well as search for key words.

        There are a few problems with the database. First, the statutes are in Albanian. While in one respect this is a good thing, after all, most Albanians would need it in their native tongue, it does not help us to understand the law. A solution could be to switch to the English option, search for key words such as "asylum," and see what titles it pulls up. Then we would print them out and have a translator translate them to English so we could study them and comment on them.

        Another problem is that the database is designed in such a way that we would not be able to put it on the web for public use. This is an understandable precaution for the businessman, but it does not help us. The laws can, however, be printed out and scanned into the computer.

        Finally, the database comes on a series of disks, and once the disks have been inserted into a specific computer, they will only respond to that computer. This is to prevent people from loading the database into a host of computers. Again, while an understandable business move, this is problematic for our project.

        Mr. (?) informed us that he had a problem getting us a full set of disks, but if we paid, he would have them sent to us (we were leaving that afternoon, so we could not wait for him to make a new set). We decided against handing over that sum of money for a promise in return, so we declined to buy the database at that time. Although it certainly would have been useful, we would look into picking it up perhaps on the next trip to Albania. With that we left and returned to the hotel to leave for Vienna.

      To our surprise, Mr. (?) had actually beaten us to the hotel with a complete set of disks. With that we completed our transaction and happily walked away with what was sure to be an invaluable resource not only for the project but for the school as well.

World Health Organization (WHO)

      Although Dr. (?) was not there to meet with us, he had arranged to leave a packet of information with his secretary. When we arrived, the packet was waiting, and our request for additional information (meeting minutes) was granted. They were kind enough to present the information on electronic form, and let us know that any other information that we would need in the future would be shared if we wanted it. Although the meeting was brief, it seemed that we had a useful contact in the WHO.

CONCLUSION

        Although the group was able to successful accomplish the stated objectives, the current situation in Yugoslavia necessitates immediate implementation of our follow up work. Priority must be given to implementing the necessary changes to the database. We will want to get a fully functioning and useful database up as soon as is possible for use in Albania. Taking into consideration the NATO action that has gotten underway, and assuming a worst case scenario, we should be prepared for an influx of refugees from Kosovo that has not been matched to date. Our priority should be to help coordinate the efforts of the governmental and international communities to absorb and manage this new group of incoming refugees.

        The invaluable contacts which were established and strengthened during this trip will certainly prove to be beneficial in further implementation of KRYSIS NET. By meeting with the various governmental and international organizations and talking with them about the information that we would need to have to create a comprehensive and useful database, we were able to gain a better understanding of the crisis. We also met with legal advisors who gave us information about the Albanian property, criminal and asylum laws and information on these laws can provide a foundation for refugees who have recently found themselves under the Albanian legal system.

        Students will now need to take the information that we have received form the NGOs and legal advisors and put it up on the website in a format tailored for our intended end users. We will want to take the information that we have gathered from these organizations, and break it down into individual projects for IPRO students. Some of the materials are not in electronic form, only hard copy. Those will have to be scanned and uploaded to the website. Some of the materials we received are only in Albanian. With those materials, we will have to determine what is important for our purposes, and get it translated and taken out of the legal verbage before it is put up on the web.

        The trip was successful in that the team was able to accomplish all of the objectives set forth; yet each member of the team certainly realized that there was a necessity for continued efforts of this nature in this region of the world and that "success" would only be truly felt once peace is established and there is no longer a need for KRYSIS NET.

 

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