“To us, you are not refugees, but our sisters and brothers”: 276 Regional Housing Programme families receive new homes in Novi Sad-Veternik, Serbia
Novi Sad-Veternik, Serbia, 5 June 2020 – Today was a landmark day for the Regional Housing Programme (RHP), as 276 refugee and displaced families from the former Yugoslavia received keys to their new homes in Novi Sad-Veternik, Serbia. The complex of three apartment buildings was constructed under the RHP SRB5 sub-project, with the cost of works totalling approximately EUR 6.5 million.
The main Donor to the RHP – which aims to provide approximately 7 500 homes to most-vulnerable families across Serbia by end-2022 – is the European Union, followed by other key Donors, the United States of America, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Turkey and Luxembourg.
The event was attended by Mr Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia; Ms Leonetta Pajer, Head of Operations, Section I, at the European Union Delegation to Serbia; Ambassador Andrea Orizio, Head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Serbia; Mr Hans Schodder, Head of the UNHCR Mission to Serbia; Anne-Kristin Piplica, Head of Economic Department at the German Embassy in Serbia; Mr Vladimir Cucić, the Serbian Commissioner for Refugees and Migration; Mr Miloš Vučević, the Mayor of Novi Sad, and Mr Dušan Kovačević, Head of the Public Sector Projects Implementation Unit Ltd., among others.
Welcoming the beneficiary families to their new homes, Minister Dačic noted that to date, the Regional Housing Programme had delivered more than 4 500 homes in Serbia alone. He pledged that the Serbian Government would continue its efforts to support the work of the Programme, adding: “I particularly look forward to the fact that refugee families will find their safe haven and a new home here in Veternik.”
On behalf of the EU, Ms Pajer also welcomed the occasion. “It is a genuine pleasure to be here today to witness the great accomplishments of this Programme,” she said. “The RHP not only provides houses – it has also contributed to regional cooperation and successful knowledge transfer to local and regional administrations in its Partner Countries. The EU will continue to support the RHP until the end of its implementation. I wish you all a happy and successful new chapter in your lives.”
Mayor Vučević took the opportunity to acknowledge the difficulties experienced by the beneficiaries as a result of the 1990s conflict in the region. “We cannot turn back time and correct the injustices that you were faced with, and everything that you suffered, but we can look towards the future. To us, you are not refugees, but our sisters and brothers, and we want you to feel equal and welcome here. May your children and grandchildren be born here, and may you achieve new successes in life. Veternik, Novi Sad, Vojvodina and Serbia as a whole are richer because you and your children live here,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the RHP partner organisations, the OSCE and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ambassador Orizio expressed satisfaction with the achievements of the RHP to date. “Partnership is the key aspect of our success, since all Donors, national and local partners are jointly contributing to the smooth implementation of the RHP and the protection of your rights,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries, Ms Nada Svitlić, thanked the RHP stakeholders on behalf of the families: “I would like to thank you in the name of all 276 beneficiary families,” she said. “I came here from Croatia with my two small children in 1995. Today, after more than a quarter of a century, we finally have our own roof over our heads. The best proof that life has indeed continued is the fact that my children have finished school and started their own families here in Serbia.”
Commissioner Cucić congratulated the beneficiaries, adding that he hoped that they and their families would thrive in their new homes. Echoing these words, Mr Kovačević agreed. “Today, your biggest problems are behind you. What you are receiving here are in fact the keys to your safe future,” he stated.
- 5 Jun, 2020
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