Refugees and IDPs in western Balkans

Bloggers Unite

Background of this post

Bloggers Unite is an attempt to harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place. By asking bloggers to write about a particular subject on 1 day of the month, a single voice can be joined with thousands to help make a difference. This time, because of our work to increase human rights awareness, many members chose to go one step further to raise awareness for refugees — people who are impacted by these issues. So, on Nov. 10, thousands of bloggers will write about the various challenges faced by the 11 million people who have no country to call home and the 40 million more who have been displaced because of war and natural disasters. (More about this campaign here.)

Bloggers Unite

Refugees and IDPs in West Balkans

This theme is of paramount importance in Balkans. Beginning 1991, political upheavals – such as the breakup of Yugoslavia – displaced millions of people. Officially one part of these people are refugees meaning that they have escaped to other country, one part is “internally displaced persons” (IDPs) meaning that they have escaped from their homevillage/-town but still are in the same country than before.

Latest statistics about this problem in western Balkans are following (country, no of refugees – no of IDPs – Total including also stateless etc. persons):

  • Albania:  77 –  0  –  101
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina: 7.367  –  130.984  – 146.586
  • Croatia:  1.642  –  2.873  –  7.826
  • FRY Macedonia: 1.235  –  0  –  2.397
  • Montenegro:  8.528  –  16.155  –  24.822
  • Serbia:  97.995  –  226.350  –  326.853
  • Slovenia: 263  –  0  –  4.408

(Source: UNHCR statistics end-2007, table established 3rd June 2008)

The table above is maybe surprising to those who have the picture – made by western mainstreammedia – in their minds, that (only) Serbs were making ethnic cleansing.  In reality today the Serbs are the biggest victims of Balkan wars.

Roots and possible solution

Bosnian war (1992-95) included massive transfer of populations so it was possible to draw new boundaries according ethnic groups. Dayton Agreement 1995 created federation like Bosnia with entities according these lines so situation with IDPs in Bosnia-Herzegvina is quite stabil.

In Serbia the refugee problem came when Serbs were expelled from East Croatia and Croatian Krajina.  The IDP problem is a follow-up of Kosovo conflict when some 200.000 Serbs and some thousends of Roma were expelled from there to northern Serb-dominated part of province or to Serbia.  During Nato bombings also Kosovo Albanians – about 700.000 – escaped from the province but most of them have returned back.

To solve refugee and IDP problem in western Balkans there is a need of massive housing programme especially in Serbia and this can probably be implemented with help of international donors.  Housing activities should also be supported by economical development programmes to decrease unemployment figures and social problems common in locations with big share of refugees/IDPs.

Bloggers Unite

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