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Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Emergency Appeal Final Report DREF n°MDRMK005

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A. Situation analysis Description of the disaster On 30 June 2015, UNHCR declared a “level 2” emergency in Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia. During August 2015, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia saw a steep increase in the number of migrants transiting through its territory, adding to those already crossing the border since September 2014. The main migration routes from Greece passed along the railway line at Gevgelija Veles in the direction of Kumanovo and neighbouring villages, aiming for the Serbian border, on their way to countries of western and northern Europe. This route between the Greece and Serbia borders was mostly made on foot and migrants faced risks from smugglers and criminals.

On 22 June 2015, CHF 193,218 was released from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to enable the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to meet the immediate emergency needs of 4,600 individuals through the provision of food and non-food items, hygiene parcels, first aid and tracing services (restoring family links).

On 20 August 2015, with the large increase in the number of migrants, the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia declared a state of emergency for a period of 30 days on the southern and northern borders. Along with this measure, the police and the army increased their presence at the border to ensure stability and safety in the border zones, particularly in terms of controlling the entry of migrants into the country.

Migrants were registered by the police and were granted short-term stay permits for 72 hours, following reforms on the Law on Foreigners. During this period, migrants were entitled to ask for asylum.
On 10 September 2015, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal seeking CHF 3.26 million, to provide assistance for 110,000 beneficiaries over seven months. With increasing humanitarian needs, the Appeal was revised on 10 February 2016, seeking CHF 5.9 million, to provide assistance for 250,000 people.

According to UNHCR, as of 31 January 2016, the total number of arrivals in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia up to that date was 495,673 people. It is very difficult, however, to have exact figures for the total number of migrants who transited through the country. At times, for example in September 2015, there were huge numbers of arrivals each day, people transited quickly through the country, and they were not all officially registered. An estimated overall total number of migrants transiting through the country from the beginning of 2015 to early 2017 is around 633,000 people (UNHCR and IOM figures).

On 19 February 2016, the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (and all neighbouring countries on the Balkan route of the migrants) passed a decision to close the borders and not to allow any more migrants to enter the country, based on the decision of the EU. This resulted in people being stranded in all the countries on the Balkan route.

The initial figure of stranded people in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 19 February 2016 was 1,600 persons (in the year after that it was around 800 a month). Immediately after that, the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia passed a decision that the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would be assigned to be the lead agency for distribution of humanitarian assistance (food and non-food items, and particularly for running kitchens for provision of food for the migrants).

The Emergency Appeal was revised for the second time on 6 June 2016, to reflect new migration trends identified in recent months. The closure of the Balkan route and the EU-Turkey agreement resulted in thousands of migrants stranded in different countries, while fewer continued, with support of smugglers and traffickers, exposing themselves to the risks that this involves. The plan of action of the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was adjusted to respond to the humanitarian needs of the migrants stranded in the country, as well as the provision of support to irregular migrants in the detention centre in Skopje (50 persons per day) and the irregular migrants crossing the border from Serbia and Greece (150 persons per week). As of 30 September 2016, there were 198 stranded migrants in the two reception centres in Tabanovce and Gevgelija. The Emergency Appeal revision extended the operation timeframe until December 2016, and it was then further extended until September 2017. Following the closure of the Emergency Appeal, the IFRC’s Regional Office for Europe will continue supporting the Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in its efforts to meet the needs of the migrants through the IFRC’s Europe Region Operational Plan for 2017.

The two reception centres were managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy on behalf of the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has continued to provide humanitarian assistance, first aid support, restoring family links and food.

According to data received from the National Society as of 28 August 2017, there were 47 people1 accommodated in the two reception centres in Tabanovce and Gevgelija, managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy with the support of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health, the Army and different state utility companies. The National Society is also reporting that it has assisted each week 151 undocumented migrants outside of centres – the figure, however, cannot be confirmed as being unique individuals.