News 25 Jan 13

Bosnia Appeals to Serb Refugees to Return

Sarajevo says it can build more than 5,000 homes for refugees who fled during the war in the 1990s but now want to come back.

Marija Ristic

Bosnia’s Ministry for human rights and refugees called on refugees to apply to come back and permanently settle in the country that they fled from almost 20 years ago during the war. 

“Bosnia has the capacity to build homes for 5,400 refugee families, while 1,200 homes are envisaged for Serbs from Serbia, and an additional 600 are for Serbs from Croatia who during the war came to Bosnia,” said Drago Kovac, secretary at the ministry.

The scheme is part of a regional housing project backed by funds of 583 million euro which was raised last year at a donors’ conference in Sarajevo organised jointly by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro.

The project aims to resolve the housing problems of 27,000 refuge families in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.
“Twenty per cent of this money is envisaged for Bosnia, 60 per cent for Serbia and 20 per cent for Croatia,” said Kovac.

During the 1990s war, more than half the population of Bosnia - around 2.2 milion people - were displaced or become refugees.

In Croatia, the number of displaced people was 550,000, and in Serbia 540,000.
Refugees have until February 7 to apply for the housing scheme in Bosnia.

“The aim of the project is to resolve the issue of all refugees who wish to return in the upcoming three to four years,” said Mario Nenadic, assistant minister at the Bosnian human rights ministry.

Housing remains a major problem for refugees in the country, he said.

“Currently in Bosnia, there are almost 50,000 requests from refuges related to the reconstruction of their homes destroyed during the war,” he explained.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic and Bosnia’s refugees minister Damir Ljubic last week also issued a joint call for displaced Bosnians to go back to their pre-war homes.

Serbia currently hosts the highest amount of refugees in Europe, and is ranked 13th in the world in terms of refugee numbers.

According to the latest statistics from Belgrade’s office for refugees, there are 66,400 refugees from Bosnia and Croatia and 210,000 internally displaced people from Kosovo living in Serbia.

Sarajevo government statistics say meanwhile that Bosnia has around 10,000 refugees and internally displaced people.

A UN human rights commission report from December 2011 said there are still around 2,600 people listed as refugees in Croatia.

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