Providing vital services for at-risk women migrants and survivors of violence
Sally Saleh was pregnant when she and her husband fled Syria for a safer life. Their journey was a constant struggle for survival, walking endlessly for 60 days, crossing 4 countries. By the time Sally reached the Kapshtica border crossing in south-eastern Albania, she had gone into labour and was immediately assisted by Caritas Albania.
“The doctors at the border took care of us but I lost the baby and with him I lost my peace of mind. I did not ask for anything but to unload the burden I have in my soul and for that, Caritas has been a huge support,” said Sally before leaving Albania.
Since September 2021, UN Women has been working closely with UNHCR and Caritas in Albania to ensure that migrant and asylum-seeking women and girls, in particular those at high risk of being subjected to violence, are properly identified and welcomed in the country. So far, over 300 migrant women and girls have benefitted from essential services in the context of this UN Joint Initiative on improving reception conditions at borders and ensuring systematic border monitoring. This initiative aims to increase state capacities to manage mixed migration flows with a focus on unaccompanied minors, women at risk and women survivors of violence. The services include emergency medical and psychosocial assistance, health counselling, provision of medical supplies, and language support by a female interpreter.
“The recognition and gratitude shown to us by migrant and refugee women and girls are a source of constant motivation to continue to serve and help them with devotion and commitment,” says Adela Belli, a doctor with Caritas Albania.
The initiative is implemented by UN Women and UNHCR in cooperation with Caritas, with financial support by the government of Norway through the SDG Acceleration Fund in Albania.
According to UNHCR, hundreds of individuals have entered Albania as part of mixed migration flows. About one fifth of those persons – mostly from high risk and war-torn countries, including Syria and Afghanistan and lately Ukraine – were women and children.
One of them was Rami Meda, an 18-year-old girl fleeing Somalia because her stepmother was trying to force her into marrying an older man. “She used many ways to persuade me to marry him, including by using violence. That’s why I left my country and I want to go to Germany to live in peace,” says Rami, who received psychological counselling, food, and sanitary products while living in supported accommodation in Kapshtica.
“When you work on the ground nothing is more rewarding than seeing a child, woman, or young man entering the psychosocial assistance office with marks of exhaustion, insecurity, and distress... and then seeing them leave the office with smiles on their faces. The same is true for staff providing medical support. I hope this assistance and support will continue,” says Derand Krasniqi, Protection Associate at UNHCR Albania.
UN Women has been working closely with Border and Migration Police (BMP) authorities to better coordinate responsibilities, procedures and referral mechanisms for the identification of at-risk and highly vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers.
In December 2021, UN Women contributed to the roundtable on “Access to Asylum Procedures and Identification and Referral of Persons with Specific Needs” organized by UNHCR. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Frontex presented a new toolkit on the identification of persons with special needs to local stakeholders, including representatives from the municipality of Korça, BMP authorities, the Albanian Ministry of the Interior and civil society partners. The toolkit will support front-line responders to better identify migrants and refugees at risk of being vulnerable to violence and to ensure respect for and fulfilment of key human rights obligations in handling such cases.
UN Women representative in Albania, Michele Ribotta, praised this as a very successful initiative and called for continued coordinated efforts. “We must continue to address the needs and protect the human rights of migrant women and we look forward to our partnership with CARITAS and the UN family, building on the strong foundations that were laid through the Norwegian contribution to the SDG Fund,” said Mr. Ribotta.
 Name has been changed for protection reasons.
 For reference, mixed migration movements are defined as: “Mixed movements (or mixed migrations) refers to people on the move, travelling generally in an irregular manner, over the same routes and using the same means of transport, but for different reasons. People travelling as part of mixed movements have varying needs and may include asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless people, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied or separated children, and migrants, in an irregular situation. Mixed movements are often complex and can present challenges for all those involved”, for more details see: https://data.unhcr.org/en/situations/southeasterneurope
 Name has been changed for protection reasons.