The United Nations refugee agency today welcomed an agreement reached between Croatia and Serbia to resolve their mutual refugee and return issues, and called on the two nations to ensure that it is translated into concrete action.
“Successful resolution of these issues would be an important step towards solving one of the longest protracted refugee situations in Europe – a legacy of the wars in this region of the 1990s,” Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.
“While UNHCR has yet to see details of the Croatia-Serbia agreement, we hope that steps will be taken rapidly to translate this into concrete action that will enable the resolution of this long-standing situation, with the support of interested donors,” he added.
Serbia has been host to one of the largest populations of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Europe, according to the agency.
There are some 65,000 Croatian refugees still living in Serbia, most of them in private accommodation. However, some 5,500, including a significant number of vulnerable people, have been housed in collective centres where conditions are “poor,” said UNHCR.
Meanwhile, there have been substantial refugee returns in recent years in Croatia, although some returnees have faced difficulties in obtaining housing and taking advantage of socio-economic reintegration programmes.
UNHCR has been working with the Government and the international community to resolve legal, social, and technical problems regarding return and reintegration.