U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Serbia and Montenegro
|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 - Serbia and Montenegro, 25 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b459464.html [accessed 24 July 2017]|
Serbia and Montenegro, continued to be the epicenter of displacement in the Balkans, hosting more than a half million uprooted people, (543,100) from its several wars in the Balkans. It recorded 291,100 refugees, 189,400 from Croatia, 99,700 from Bosnia and 1,500 ethnic Albanians from Macedonia in Kosovo. More than 248,000 of these were ethnic Serbs. Serbia had an estimated 252,000 internally displaced persons. In addition, 70,100 of the country's nationals were refugees or asylum seekers abroad, the majority from Kosovo.
Serbia and Montenegro had 224,800 internally displaced persons from Kosovo, 70% ethnic Serbs, 13% Roma, and 6% Montenegrins. Another 22,200 Kosovars were displaced, but had remained within Kosovo. In addition, Kosovo hosted about 5,000 mostly Albanians displaced from the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia, most during the conflict in the valley that ended in 2001.
The vast majority of uprooted persons are hosted in private accommodations in Serbia and Montenegro, with only 17,000 in collective centers. The refugee total for the country declined from 2002, when 353,000 refugees were recorded. Last year, 480 refugees were resettled, mostly to Australia, 250, and the United States, 190. Approximately 12,000 refugees returned last year, 7,000 to Croatia and 5,000 to Bosnia, in contrast to the 26,000 returnees in 2002. While physical security improved for Serbs and other minority returnees in Croatia and Bosnia, community hostility and employment discrimination impeded returns of Serb refugees to these countries. Rather than return, Serbia encouraged integration; it granted citizenship in recent years to 38,000 refugees, 24,900 from Croatia and 13,100 from Bosnia.
Although it joined the Council of Europe and ratified the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Serbia also hosted indicted war criminals. While criminal elements assassinated President Zoran Djindic in March 2003, the government held elections leading to a peaceful transition within its constitutional framework.
The UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the NATO-led military, installed after the 1999 agreement ending the Kosovo conflict, still essentially ran it as a protectorate. International officials did succeed in having Serb and Albanian leaders meet, including a meeting between officials from Belgrade and the provisional government of Kosovo, but little progress was made in enhancing security and returning property to minority Serbs. During 2003, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 3,660 returns, including 1,490 Serbs and 1,150 Ashkali and Egyptians. The UN and international community did not specify a process to decide the final status of Kosovo – independent or part of a federation including Serbia – which deterred Serbs from returning and frustrated Albanians who sought full self-government. In March 2004, the disputed circumstances of the drowning of a couple of children in the divided town of Mitrovica sparked widespread anti-Serb rioting and the displacement of more than 3,000 people. (in addition to the year-end totals given above and in the statistical tables).
Although resisted by Kosovar Albanians and, officially, by the international community, the concept of a separate Serb enclave in northern Kosovo continued to have some backers, especially among Serbs. Most displaced Kosovar Serbs, however, come from towns outside the northern region of Kosovo: 40,600 from Pristina, 24,400 from Pec, 16,500 from Prizren, and 14,500 from Gnjilane.
In the neighboring Albanian-majority Presevo valley of southern Serbia bordering Kosovo and Macedonia, assailants – some from a shadowy group calling itself the Albanian National Army (AKSH) – attacked government forces in Serbia and neighboring Macedonia as well as moderate Albanians in more than a half dozen incidents in August and September. Reportedly some people were displaced, but likely have since returned.
The numbers of displaced persons from Kosovo in collective centers in Serbia continues to fall. UNHCR promoted local housing and other alternative solutions. Although those displaced from Kosovo are mostly ethnic Serbs and citizens, many lack basic documents and the government restricts their freedom of movement and residence and, thus, limits their employment mostly to the gray or informal market. Nearly 90% fall below the poverty line, nine times the rate for the local population. The Roma remain the most vulnerable. International agencies reduced assistance and the newly elected government is unable to fill the gap.
Serbia and Montenegro lack a law on refugees consistent with international standards. UNHCR conducts refugee status determinations and recorded 135 asylum seekers in 2003, most from Iraq (70) and Afghanistan (26). However, the actual number is greater, because UNHCR sees only those people who convince Serb authorities to refer their asylum cases to UNHCR. The government detains those found without proper documents and officials have no formal mechanism to refer potential asylum seekers arriving at airports and other borders. This year's accession to the Council of Europe requires a proper plan to be put in place in 2004.