Plight of refugees from Balkans conflicts remains priority for UN agency

3 April 2012

Two decades after the siege of the city of Sarajevo during the Balkans conflicts, the UN refugee agency today highlighted the plight of people still living as refugees in the region.

“Today, most of those forced to flee their homes during the 1991 to 1995 conflict have either returned or been locally integrated,” a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming, told reporters in Geneva. “However, the remaining refugees and the displaced in that region of Europe are one of UNHCR’s five priority protracted refugee situations worldwide.”

The siege of Sarajevo began on 6 April 1992. It lasted four years, and became one of the most dramatic and emblematic events of the violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia, which left an estimated 200,000 dead and uprooted some 2.7 million people – the largest displacement of persons in Europe since the Second World War.

An initiative by concerned governments – in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro – to find solutions to the refugee crisis has been supported by the international community, according to Ms. Fleming, who added that UNHCR recently welcomed the renewed regional effort to find durable solutions, including housing support, for some 74,000 of those considered most vulnerable.

An international donor conference will be held in Sarajevo on 24 April, aiming to raise €500 million required to provide housing to the remaining refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees.

UNHCR has been assisting an estimated 100,000 refugees and displaced persons since the end of the war, including working with governments to facilitate their return to their areas of origin or local integration.

Many of them were in a traumatized by wartime experiences, making it necessary to establish health institutions to care particularly for the elderly, many of whom have no family support, Ms. Fleming said.


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