News 28 Feb 12

Bosnia Federation Urged to Speed Return Process

Lawmakers in the Bosniak-Croat Federation urged the entity government to take out a loan to speed up the resettlement of thousands of internally displaced people.

Elvira Jukic

Parliament in Bosnia's Federation entity has asked the government to invest more efforts into returning refugees and displaced persons to their pre-war homes.

One suggestion is to take out a loan of 200 million euro and use it to build homes and invest in other forms of sustainable return.

The Minister of Refugees and Displaced Persons in the entity, Adil Osmanovic, told Balkan Insight that Bosnia's state government, the Council of Ministers, should have taken out such a loan three years ago, but it never did.

“If the Council of Ministers does not act, parliament in the Federation has asked the [entity] government to take out the loan so that we can speed up the return process,” Osmanovic said.

MPs in the debate in the Federation parliament said not enough had been done to ensure a sustainable return process.

“We do not help returnees by giving them fish, we help them by giving them a fishing rod and teaching them to fish,” Mirvad Kuric, an opposition lawmaker said.

Minister Osmanovic said that one problem is that many people who returned to the predominantly Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, still work and have their identity cards in the Federation entity.

More than 100,000 people in total in Bosnia are considered possible returnees, either to the Federation or to Republika Srpska.

“More than 64,000 should return to Republika Srpska and more than 40,000 to the Federation, which makes a total of 106,000,” Osmanovic said.

Seventeen years after the war, 93 collective settlements in the Federation entity, mostly around town of Tuzla, are home to around 5,400 of these people.

The minister said that remaining collective settlements should be closed and the people living in them be given reconstructed homes or other places to live.

Bosnia's return process started in earnest about ten years ago since when at least 100,000 people have returned to their homes, ministry data say.

But Osmanovic complained of an obstructive attitude on the part of the Republika Srpska, where he said the authorities want "to keep people living where they are at the moment”.

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