News 09 Sep 16

Serbia Builds 235 Apartments for War Refugees

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic laid the foundation stone for the construction of 235 apartments for refugee families who fled Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990s wars.

Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
Laying the foundation stone for the construction of the apartments. Photo: Beta.

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Friday in Belgrade after laying the foundation stone for the construction of the apartments that after so many years, the issue of housing for refugees from the 1990s wars is going to be resolved.

“What is most important is that their full integration into society was completed,” Dacic said.

He promised that the construction of the apartments will lead to the closure of temporary ‘collective centres’ where some refugees have been living since fleeing Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The cost of the project is 9.8 million euros and the construction of the apartments is part of the Regional Housing Programme, which is seeking to tackle the housing problems of refugees in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia.

It should eventually resolve the housing problems of more than 16,700 refugee families who are living in Serbia, Dacic said - a total of 45,000 people.

The head of EU delegation to Serbia, Michael Davenport, US ambassador Kyle Skat, deputy Belgrade mayor Andrija Mladenovic, Serbia’s Commissioner for Refugees Vladimir Cucic and OSCE ambassador Peter Burkhard also attended Friday’s event.

During the 1990s conflicts, more than half the population of Bosnia - around 2.2 million people - was displaced or become refugees. In Croatia, the number of displaced people was 550,000, and in Serbia, 540,000.

According to the Serbian commission for refugees, 250,000 people fled Kosovo following the war in 1999.

Many of the refugees were initially housed in collective centres but the number of these has gradually decreased over the years.

As of last month, there were nine collective centres in Serbia accommodating 254 people and a further eight in Kosovo accommodating 353 people, according to the commission for refugees.

However as the number of homeless refugees from the 1990s wars decreases, Serbia has faced new issues as one of the key countries on the so-called ‘Balkan Route’, a major corridor for refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

During the global refugee crisis in 2015, more than a million people crossed through Serbia to EU countries. In first six months of this year, an estimated 100,000 refugees crossed Serbia.

The number of refugees in Serbia has been increasing steadily since Hungary tightened security on its border early in July.

According to officials, around 500 refugees enter Serbia each day but not much of them appear to be moving on since the border with Hungary was tightened.

Currently, five refugee camps operate in Serbia - in Krnjaca near Belgrade, at Sjenica, Tutin, Bogovadja and at Banja Koviljaca, as well as numerous transit shelters.

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