Bosnia: Refugees and Displaced Populations
Fact Sheet prepared by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs,
November 7, 1996
- As of September 1996, about 2.3
million Bosnians remain in refugee or internally displaced status.
Of these, more than 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs)
are in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Roughly 450,000 Bosnian refugees
are currently in neighboring countries, with most located in Croatia
and SerbiaMontenegro. Additionally, more than 600,000 are
scattered throughout western and central Europe.
- Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreement
guarantees all refugees and displaced persons the right to return
to their homes of origin, as well as the right to restitution
of or compensation for real property. Annex VII also calls for
the establishment of a Commission for Displaced Persons and Refugees
to adjudicate real property claims. This commission has been constituted
and will begin to receive claims at the end of 1996.
- While the humanitarian assistance
effort for the displaced, led by the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), has successfully provided for more than
3 million vulnerable people, progress in facilitating repatriation
has been slow. To date, only 225,000250,000 individuals
have returned to their homes in Bosnia, most of these spontaneously
and to areas where the returnees constitute the ethnic majority.
During the same period, another 90,000 have been uprooted. Concern
about security is the primary obstacle to refugee return, followed
by lack of shelter and related infrastructure.
- Minority returns have been especially
problematic due to continuing limitations on freedom of movement.
UNHCR is working to increase the pace of repatriation by encouraging
contact between those displaced and the local communities they
hope to return to. Their efforts also include reconstructing housing,
repatriation assistance, operating bus lines across the InterEntity
Boundary Line and encouraging donors to target 22 specific areas
within BosniaHerzegovina for enhanced reconstruction. While
UNHCR strongly supports voluntary return, they believe the time
is premature for refugee host countries to lift temporary protected
status. The U.S. Government hopes all nations will work closely
with the UNHCR on this issue.
- Since 1991, the U. S. Government
has provided over $1 billion in humanitarian assistance in the
former Yugoslavia. Of this amount, more than $230 million has
gone to refugee assistance programs. The U.S. Government spent
more than $84 million on refugee assistance in the countries of
the former Yugoslavia in fiscal year 1996. As of November 1996,
the U.S. has admitted more than 31,000 Bosnians for permanent
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