Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2018, 07:53 GMT

Moving Kosovars to Albania: A Specific Form of Humanitarian Evacuation

Publisher UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Author Department of International Protection (DIP)
Publication Date 3 May 1999
Cite as UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Moving Kosovars to Albania: A Specific Form of Humanitarian Evacuation, 3 May 1999, available at: [accessed 24 January 2018]

Caveat: This document starts from the assumption that this is humanitarian evacuation in practice, if not in name. Therefore there must be a shared underlying assumption and certain parallels in the protection parameters.

1.     Humanitarian Evacuation Generally

·        the existing guidelines on humanitarian evacuation stress the following principles:

·        the limited purpose of the evacuation is as a responsibility-sharing tool to ensure access to safety and on-going protection for all who need it in the particular circumstances of the FYR of Macedonia;

·        no refugee should be evacuated without his or her informed consent;

·        the evacuation must not involuntarily split families;

·        the evacuation must not take place until at least a rudimentary registration has been completed.[1]

·        the key features of humanitarian evacuation are its speed and its size; that is, it will only achieve its protection objective if it is able to move large numbers of refugees within a short time period  (it must, at a minimum, keep pace with arrivals in FYR of Macedonia).

2.     Obstacles to Large and Speedy Humanitarian Evacuation

·        the following obstacles to achieving large-scale, timely movement of refugees out of FYR of Macedonia have been identified;

·        selection criteria imposed by evacuation states (sometimes necessitated by the existence of legislation in the receiving country) and the time it takes to apply it; 

·        organisation of transport to receiving countries; and

·        the need to respect the principle of family unity, (for example, delays to await family members who are coming later or to identify relatives in receiving countries).

3.     Protection in Albania

·        despite significant internal problems of lack of capacity and infrastructure, the Government of Albania has steadfastly maintained its willingness to accept and provide protection to all refugees arriving since the commencement of a significant outflow in 1998;

·        Albania has a border contiguous with Macedonia, meaning movement is quick and easy, and Albania imposes no quota nor selection criteria for accepting Kosovars;

·        the major obstacle to speedy evacuation to Albania is reception capacity and the lack of prepared sites;

·        Albania's reception and protection capacity is being, and can be further, enhanced by support from the international community, making it an option for movements to decongest FYR of Macedonia.

4.     Modalities of Activating Evacuation to Albania

·        there is a need to respect the underlying principles governing humanitarian evacuation, yet allow for quick movement of large numbers of refugees. The following issues arise for an operational response.

Consent to the Evacuation

·        preferably all persons evacuated to Albania should agree to go. At the very least, they should not object and, should they do so, this should be respected;

·        in order to enable refugees to provide a meaningful consent to evacuation, they must know the following:

·        the destination, and

·        the planned conditions of stay there;

·        no pressure should be exerted on refugees to accept evacuation against their will;

·        refugees who object to evacuation should be provided further counselling to explore the validity of their objections and to ensure that they understand the circumstances of the evacuation;

·        refugees who have valid and justified reasons for not wanting to leave FYR of Macedonia should be allowed to stay. Valid reasons might include, but may not be limited to the following:

·        awaiting arrival of family members or living with family members in FYROM,

·        wishing to ensure protection of property in FYROM,

·        requiring treatment or supplies available in FYROM but not in Albania,

·        fear of particular protection problems in Albania (see below).

Particular Protection Concerns

·        certain groups may deserve particular attention and to be dealt with cautiously with respect to movement to Albania on account of their own situation and the presence of criminality, lack of law and order and inadequate support structures in some areas of the country.  These groups include

·        unaccompanied or separated minors

·        female single heads of households

·        young girls who may be susceptible to trafficking

·        handicapped and ill persons

·        young men fearing recruitment by the KLA

·        depending on the planned destination and expected conditions of security there, care should be taken to identify and consider whether evacuees will be provided with a sufficient level of protection in Albania before evacuation takes place;

·        certainly the more vulnerable groups should not be taken to Albania without a guaranteed and identified site location to accommodate them.

The Process of Evacuation

·       the following steps are suggested to be taken in ensuring that the foregoing concerns are addressed during the evacuation process:

·        UNHCR's capacity to receive refugees in Albania must be readied without delay;

·        written information regarding the places of residence and conditions of living in Albania should be quickly prepared and distributed at the border entry points, in the camps and to refugees staying in host families in FYR of Macedonia, together with an invitation to volunteer for evacuation to Albania;

·        refugees already registered and interviewed for humanitarian evacuation, but who have expressed a desire to remain close to Kosovo should be targeted especially for evacuation to Albania;

·        registration of new arrivals who consent to, or do not object to, to depart immediately to Albania should record, perhaps on a passenger manifest, at least

·        names of head of family and spouse, 

·        names of accompanying family members, 

·        names of missing family members, 

·        place of origin in Kosovo, and

·        signature of head of family consenting to evacuation to Albania for subsequent tracing purposes.

·        should evacuation have to be proceed, out of necessity, in haste, nevertheless every effort must be made to avoid splitting of nuclear families.

Standards and Legal Advice Section, Department of International Protection

3 May 1999

[1] See Guidelines for the Humanitarian Evacuation Programme of Kosovar Refugees in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia dated 26 April 1999 and Protection Framework Guidance:  Kosovo Situation, Revision 1, dated 30 April 1999.

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