“We are looking forward to a new and more promising chapter in our lives”: 250 displaced families receive keys to new Regional Housing Programme homes in Ovča, Serbia
Ovča, Serbia, 23 August 2023 – The mood in the Belgrade suburb of Ovča, in Serbia, was as bright as the weather today, as large numbers gathered to celebrate one of the final landmark occasions under the RHP – the delivery of keys to new apartments for 250 refugee families from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Croatia.
The apartment complex in Ovča, Belgrade – one of the most significant endeavours of the RHP in Serbia – was constructed in two phases. The first phase, which was completed in 2018, is comprised of 235 apartments, while the second phase, finalised this year, consists of 250 apartments. By the time that the RHP comes to an end later in 2023, close to 11 300 families across BiH, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia will have received secure homes.
The ceremony was hosted by Nataša Stanisavljević, Commissioner for Refugees and Migration of the Republic of Serbia (KIRS); and attended by Aleksandar Vučić, President of the Republic of Serbia; H.E. Emanuele Giaufret, Head of the European Union Delegation to Serbia; Tanja Miščević, Minister for European Integration of the Republic of Serbia; Nikola Selaković, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs of the Republic of Serbia; H.E. Jan Braathu, Head of the OSCE Mission in Serbia; Giuseppe Cirillo, Deputy Ambassador of the Republic of Italy; Richard Kohli, Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Switzerland; Hannah Elten, Political Counsellor and Regional Migration Coordinator at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany; Eline Christoffersen Våge, Foreign Service Officer at the Norwegian Embassy; Darko Petrović, RHP Programme Manager at the Council of Europe Development Bank; Stephanie Krause, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Serbia; Zoltan Kubik, representative of the Embassy of Hungary, Aleksandar Šapić, Mayor of the City of Belgrade, and Dušan Kovačević, Head of the Public Sector Projects Implementation Unit Ltd, amongst others.
Congratulating the beneficiaries on their new homes, President Vučić also warmly thanked all countries that had donated funds for the delivery of homes under the RHP. He pointed out that thanks to these contributions, 724 people would live in the 250 newly-built apartments in Ovča. Nevertheless, noting that a further 8 860 refugee families in Serbia remained without secure homes, he called upon all Serbian institutions to devote themselves to solving the housing issues of these refugee families. “We will resolve this issue by the end of 2028,” he said. “I am asking the Government of Serbia, the Commissariat, and the City of Belgrade for a total of around EUR 200 million so that all of these people can finally have a roof over their heads and a safe and happy future here in Serbia.”
On behalf of the EU, the main Donor to the RHP, Ambassador Giaufret extended his congratulations and well-wishes to all RHP beneficiaries. “ʻImati svoj krov nad glavom’ [Having a roof over your head] is a Serbian expression that is today becoming a reality for 250 families who will receive long-term durable solutions in the pursuit of housing – a new phase in their lives, a new space that they can call home,” he said. Expressing satisfaction that by the end of the RHP, more than 7 400 families in Serbia alone would have received new homes, he also reflected on the origins of the Programme: “The Regional Housing Programme has been established as a regional initiative of four countries of the former Yugoslavia with a goal to help the most-vulnerable refugees and displaced persons,” he stated. “The Programme strengthens the region’s social cohesion, it provides opportunity for economic growth, and at the same time it reminds us of the importance of regional cooperation, good neighbourly relations and the value of peace and stability.”
Finally, on behalf of the 250 beneficiary families, Rajka Kesić thanked all RHP stakeholders and everyone who had not forgotten the refugees following the conflicts in former Yugoslavia. “Today is a big day, both for my family and for all of us who will finally have our own homes,” she stated. “We are looking forward to a new and more promising chapter in our lives.”
- 23 Aug, 2023
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