Balkans trying to solve refugee problem


The programme will help refugees in BiH, Montengro, Croatia and Serbia.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 02/01/13


A refugee hangs out her laundry in front of a centre in Splaviste, near the town of Gorazde in BiH. [AFP]

About 27,000 housing units are planned for displaced and returnee families in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and neighbouring countries, thanks to money collected at the International Donors' Conference in Sarajevo.

Donors collected about 300 million euros to help refugees, and authorities hope that the housing programme will be finished in the next five years.

"Regional housing programme should provide about 27,000 permanent housing solutions for the 74,000 most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced persons in the region. This will substantially contribute to solving the problem of permanently displaced during the wars of 1991-1995," Dejan Kladarin, an officer at the Sector for Law Protection of UNHCR in BiH, told SETimes.

"BiH, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia will propose the first projects in 2013, after which they will immediately start with their implementation."

According to official data from the states of the former Yugoslavia, there are still about 434,000 displaced people, of which 87,000 are refugees and 347,000 are internally displaced people. In BiH, there are more than 6,900 registered refugees and 113,000 internally displaced people.

Fadil Turak, 41, has been living in a collective centre in Vozuca, central BiH, with his mother for 17 years. About 20 families, comprised of about 80 people, live in the centre.

"We managed to escape somehow from Srebrenica in 1995 and since then we are the refugees," he told SETimes. "Life conditions in the collective centre are very poor, there is constantly lack of electricity and water. We spoke with the local authorities about possible help, but without success ... You tell them there where we are and how we live, maybe they will remember us."

Housing is still the biggest problem for Balkan refugees. However, finding a roof does not end the process of the full integration of returnees into society. The range of issues includes a permanent status settlement, employment, access to various social protection programmes, health care, education, the payment of arrears and the activation of pensions.

Mirhunisa Zukic, president of the Association of Refugees in BiH, said that the funds from the December conference will assist the population.

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"From a total of 317,000 houses which were destroyed in the war, about 70 percent were restored. There are still 100,000 dwellings destroyed. On the other hand, governments give less money for refugees. In 2009, the refugees were given 70 million euros, and this year only 15 million," Zukic told SETimes.

The EU strongly supports the new project, donating about 230 million euros.

Zora Stanic, spokeswoman of the Special Representative of the EU in BiH, told Deutche Welle that this can be a great exsample of regional co-operation between the Balkan countries.

"The EU strongly stands behind this programme, and the realisation of it in BiH should start pretty early, in January. This will be a great example of regional co-operation that will allow 70,000 people to obtain accommodation," Stanic said.

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