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U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Bosnia and Herzegovina , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 22 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Nearly 470,000 uprooted persons lack a durable solution, eight years after the Dayton Peace Agreement and the agreement's NATO-led military force ended the Bosnian war. At year-end, 327,000 Bosnians remained internally displaced, 139,900 in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (a combination of the Bosniak and Croat factions during the war), 167,500 in the Republic Srpska and 19,700 in the Brcko district (a special district set up under an international governor; all three regions were recognized in the peace agreement). Also 142,000 were refugees or asylum seekers abroad, mostly in Serbia, 99,700, and Germany, where 38,000 are tolerated, but not given official refugee status. Fifty-one hundred Bosnians sought asylum abroad during 2003.

Most of those displaced were minorities in their home communities. The peace agreement and subsequent measures by the High Representative – the international official established by the peace agreement who has executive power – and Bosnian government have reserved positions at different levels of government for representatives of each of the three major ethnic groups – Bosniaks (typically Muslims), Croats and Serbs in order to promote minority representation and return. However, the measures focus political orientation around ethnic identity, associated with nationalist, rather than multi-ethnic political parties.

Fourteen thousand refugees repatriated to Bosnia during 2003. Governments deported 3,400 back to Bosnia, most from Western Europe – 1,580 from Sweden, 480 from Denmark, 220 from Switzerland as well as 260 from Croatia, some pursuant to readmission agreements. This figure doubled the 2002 total.

Approximately 45,000 minority returns took place during the year, 31,500 who had been internally displaced and 13,300 who had sought refuge abroad. Some 21,000 were Serbs, 18,400 were Bosniak and 4,900 Croatians, a dramatic drop from the 102,000 minority returns in 2002. Of the estimated 2.2 million uprooted by the war, nearly 1 million people, (985,000), have returned home.

Violent attacks against minorities have subsided, but not hostility to minorities. The government failed to arrest and prosecute many alleged war criminals and nationalist parties won many contests in the November 2002 elections. The government revamped the discriminatory education system establishing a core curriculum common to all communities, no matter which ethnic group predominates at a particular school, but employment discrimination against minorities was rampant. The High Representative imposed property measures on the Bosnian government necessary so minority returnees could repossess property. More than 90 percent of property claims filed as a result of the peace agreement were settled by the end of 2003. Still, many minority property holders sell their property rather than return to their original homes. Aid shifted from humanitarian to development assistance, but needed housing reconstruction funds decreased.

Bosnia continued to host 22,500 refugees, mostly Serbs from Croatia, 19,500, as well as 3,000 from Serbia and Montenegro. Approximately 2000 refugees returned to Croatia and 180 to Serbia and Montenegro. In addition, 60 refugees from Bosnia were resettled to other countries.

Bosnia passed a new Law on Movement and Stay of Aliens and Asylum that only entered into force at the end of the year and had yet to pass implementing regulations. In UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) opinion the law largely conforms to international standards for asylum, and includes humanitarian protection for those in danger of torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment. In the meantime, UNHCR conducted refugee status determinations in 2003. The agency registered 739 asylum seekers, 636 from Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovars. Twenty refugees were recognized and 309 applications were rejected.

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