Proposed new legislation giving Bosnian refugees rights to their pre-war property or compensation passed its first reading in the legislature.
The house of peoples of the Bosnian parliament voted on Tuesday in favour of the legislation that would give all refugees and internally displaced persons in the country the right to return to their pre-war homes or to choose to live elsewhere.
Under the draft law, which was developed by the Bosnian ministry for human rights and refugees, people will be able to ask for the return of their pre-war property or compensation if that is not possible.
“I am happy that there is support for this law to be adopted,” human rights and refugees minister Damir Ljubic told parliamentarians.
“It is aimed at redefining the roles of government agencies, so we can all work together to finally close this period in our history,” he said.
Bosnia has around 10,000 refugees and internally displaced people, according to the government.
In the coming weeks, the proposed law will come before the parliament again for its second reading, when amendments can be introduced.
Several lawmakers have already said that they will seek changes.
Krstan Simic, from the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, said he would object to wording in the legislation that, he said, suggests that some people left their homes voluntarily during wartime in order to avoid being forcibly expelled.
Simic said that the wording should be changed because “no one left [his home] on his own account”.
Many of the lawmakers also said that they are uncertain about the funding provisions of the legislation.
According to the draft law, Bosnia’s state institutions, entities, the Brcko district, cantons, cities and municipalities will all give two per cent of their budgets to fund projects until Annex 7 of the Dayton peace accord which ended the 1990s war is fully implemented.
Annex 7 commits the state to ensuring that all refugees and displaced persons have the right to return to their homes of origin.
Last year, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia also organised a joint donors’ conference in Sarajevo which raised around 300 million euros to support the return of refugees and those displaced by the 1990s wars by solving their housing problems.
The project to build permanent housing for those who lost their homes is intended to help some 74,000 people across the region.