News 26 Apr 13

Hundreds of Balkan Refugee Families Get New Homes

Almost 500 families from Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia will be given new homes in a scheme that also aims to solve tens of thousands more wartime refugees’ housing problems.

Denis Dzidic

The EU delegation to Bosnia said on Friday that the refugees will receive new apartments and houses that are already under construction under the Western Balkans Regional Housing Programme to replace homes destroyed during the 1990s conflicts.

The first four projects, costing 8.7 million euro, were approved recently, the delegation said.

“I am very pleased the construction and rehabilitation of the first houses will now start and that the first families will soon be able to move into their new and better homes,” the EU’s enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a written statement.

He said the programme was a good example of how the region can deal with difficult issues related to refugees and displacement.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has described the housing project a landmark decision by Balkan countries to “put the past behind them and focus on the needs of those most vulnerable”.

The project is backed by 583 million euro of donations raised last year at a conference in Sarajevo organised jointly by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia.

It aims to resolve the housing problems of 27,000 refuge families across the region.

During the war, 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.

The EU has said that almost 20 years after the war, there are still some 74,000 vulnerable people who will benefit from the programme, which is backed by the EU, the Council of Europe Development Bank, the UNHCR, the OSCE and the United States.

The programme will be implemented over a period of five years.

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