Acting Assistant Secretary David M. Robinson for Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration today reported that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia have signed a joint declaration aimed at providing durable solutions to the 74,000 remaining most vulnerable refugees and IDPs in the four countries.
Mr. Robinson highlighted that the agreement is a landmark achievement for humanitarian diplomacy and represents sustained effort by the four governments involved, the UNHCR, the EU, the OSCE, the United States, and others.
“Resolving the Balkans refugee crisis is part of a broader UNHCR strategy to address protracted situations worldwide, an effort PRM has aggressively joined.” – Mr. Robinson
He stated that the UNHCR currently defines a protracted refugee situation as one in which 25,000 or more refugees originating from the same country have sought refuge in another country for at least five consecutive years. He said more than 10 million people currently live in protracted refugee situations in 30 countries, almost two-thirds of the global refugee population.
“In the Balkans, as of the beginning of 2011, a total of 99,000 refugees remain displaced in the region due to the 1991-1995 conflict and more than 15 years after the signing of the Dayton Accords. In addition, some 328,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) live in the region, many of them displaced during the more recent conflict in Kosovo.” -Mr. Robinson
He cited both the 1995 Dayton Accords and the Sarajevo Declaration of 2005 supported the universal right of refugees to return. He said although many refugees returned to their countries of origin, especially to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the process for comprehensive resolution of the legacy of the Balkans War stalled over time. He pointed out that inadequate housing, with many refugees still living in collective centers in the region, unemployment, lack of documentation, as well as unresolved claims to tenancy, property, and pensions, challenged refugees’ ability to either integrate locally or repatriate.
“The new agreement reaffirms the right to return and provides concrete assistance to make it a reality.” -Mr. Robinson