In the dawn of new migrant crisis, we talked to the UNHCR Representative in Serbia HANS FRIEDRICH SCHODDER

What impact do fast changes on the global level have on your work, and how can Serbia respond to the refugee crisis?

Since its foundation four years ago, the readers of Diplomacy and Commerce have shown interest and support to the work of the UN Refugee Agency in Serbia. Like diplomacy and commerce, refugee issues are international in nature, as are the legal and practical solutions to the problems that refugees face. International solidarity with refugees and with the countries that host them, remains crucial in saving lives and in providing the conditions refugees need to contribute to the common good. For over half a century, UNHCR has helped millions of people to restart their lives primarily thanks to international solidarity and understanding. Successful leaders in business, diplomacy, or governance recognize the knowledge and resourcefulness that refugees bring to their companies and factories, schools and universities, towns and cities. Ever since the UN Refugee Agency opened offices in Belgrade in 1976, we have been enjoying close cooperation with authorities, civil society, the public, business and diplomatic community, many of whom are also donors to our program. Over the past five years that I have been Representative in Serbia, UNHCR and partners have assisted a swift and comprehensive response to the refugee crisis of 2015-2016, in improving the national asylum system, and in the integration of refugees, internally displaced persons, or persons at risk of statelessness. Implementation of the Regional Housing Programme for refugees from ex-Yugoslavia accelerated, while we also supported authorities and civil society in introducing innovative models of protection-sensitive care for unaccompanied and separated refugee children, as well as survivors of violence, torture and trauma.

Especially in times of too much fear and fake news, we must remain cognizant of the fact that any society is only as strong as its weakest member. Serbia has made progress in implementing more of its obligations as a party to the 1951 Refuge Convention and other international treaties, whose full implementation also constitute conditions for European integration. With all your support, Serbia can complete this process by starting to grant recognized refugees permanent residency and due access to naturalization, proper identity and travel documents, to health care, employment and self-employment. Now more than ever, we need international cooperation and solidarity.

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