Strengthening national and local systems to support the effective socio-economic integration of returnees in the Western Balkans


 What is the Programme About? 

Strengthen national and local systems to support the effective socio-economic integration of returnees in the Western Balkans is part of the IPA II Multi-Country Action Programme entrusted to UNDP, the WB and the CoE, to support the fundamental rights of Roma community and other vulnerable returnees, in three countries of Western Balkans, namely in Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia.

The project is implemented to address the reintegration of the significant number of returnees from the EU during the last years, while the Western Balkans countries were declared “safe countries of origin”. In 2017, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia were ranked among the top 20 countries with the highest number of nationals with unregulated residence status in the EU. Limited work opportunities, low-paid jobs, large informal sector and the poor quality of health and education services, among others, due to neglect and disinvestment in social infrastructure, are some of the main drivers of outward migration.
While irregular migration spreads across all demographic, social and ethnic groups, Roma men and women comprise a significant share. The surveys conducted by UNDP and the World Bank in 2017 underscore disproportional social and economic hardship as a main trigger of irregular migration and asylum application of Roma men and women, where Roma women are even more vulnerable.
While health, social and economic impact of COVID-19 crisis is still trickling down and affecting all segments of society, statistical evidences single out migrants among the hardest hit groups alongside informal, seasonal and gig workers. Returnees often remain invisible for the social safety nets or Governments’ relief and recovery packages. Although various dimensions of migration and reintegration of returnees are being addressed in national strategic and policy frameworks, their implementation has suffered from the ineffective mechanisms for horizontal (inter-institutional) and vertical (central-local level) coordination, weak institutional capacities and scarce financial resources.

In this context, the project enhances the capabilities of the Western Balkan authorities to implement holistic solutions to economic and social empowerment of returnees. By tackling the root causes and negative drivers of migration of Roma and vulnerable populations, the project contributes to implementation of the broader social inclusion agenda in the Western Balkans.

The ultimate objective of the project is to translate the tested models into national regulation and public policies and programmes for sustainable reintegration of vulnerable returnees, while UNDP primarily addresses the local level challenges.
The project works closely with local level insitutions responsible to provide services for the reintegration of returnees with a main focus to those from Roma and Egyptian ethnic minority, with local civil society actors and local bussines community. The community of returnees, is considered both as beneficiary and partner during the implementation, aiming to create onwnership of the actions forseen to take, to the returnees themselves.
The project tackles a varity of key hindrances to reintegration, including but not limited to:
- developing or improving local strategies and services in the benefit of reintegration of returnees;
- supporting local government institutions to improve service provision and respond to the reintegration needs of the returnees;
- seting-up a data collection system for systematic monitoring of the progress in the implementation of local returnees’ strategies;
- providing personalized support to individual’s growth, reflective of individual’s education, skills, experience, preferences and professional aspirations by equipping returnees with a suite of soft, technical and digital skills to improve their employability in the formal labour market;
- supporting returnees with entrepreneurial potential to start their own business;
- supporting the implementation of community cohesion component of local reintegration strategies through small grants schema for local government units and local NGOs, in order to encourage engagement of returnees to improve trust and collaboration between them and resident population;
- improving access to social and administrative services by returnees including by use of digital tools;
- strengthening capacities of NGOs and public service providers for effective provision of services including with the application of new digital tools.

Important noting is that based on the learning and knowledge assembled during the implementation, the project aims to promote the regional dialogue among policy makers and practitioners, on topics of significance for the sustainable reintegration of returnees, in order to provide a space for exchanging the views and experience between policy makers and policy practitioners.
In Albania, this project is be implemented in Municipalities of Fieri, Devolli and Berati.

Expected Results

Output 1- Local returnee integration strategies are developed with selected municipalities. In this component the project contributes to the development of local reintegration strategies, aiming to improve the livelihoods and social wellbeing of returnees and the broader community, tackle local governance issues, capacity and institutional bottlenecks and gaps of service providers and business ecosystems, which hinder the effective implementation of reintegration policies.
Output 2 - Elements of local returnee integration strategies are implemented in selected municipalities, including innovative activities on livelihoods and skills building, etc. In this component the project aims to demonstrate new approaches to economic empowerment and social cohesion, which form the main pillars of local reintegration strategies.
Output 3- Significant number of urgent administrative issues faced by returnees are addressed. In this component the project seeks to identify and develop innovative approaches to public service provision, by developing and utilising a number of digitalized tools and laying the ground for introducing integrated case management.

Kindergarten in Berat, Albania



October 2020


June 2024




United Nations Development Programme










Full Project information