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Bosnia: Refugees In Scandinavia Encouraged To Return Home

Copenhagen, 9 April 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Norway has offered two years residency rights to Bosnian refugees if they agree now to return home.

The offer has been announced by Norwegian Justice Minister Gerd-Liv Villa. There are currently about 12,000 Bosnian refugees in Norway (population under 5 million) but, despite various government programs encouraging their voluntary repatriation, very few have chosen to return.

The measure is the latest in a series of similar steps taken throughout Scandinavia for the sole purpose of encouraging people displaced by the Balkan wars to return home.

There are currently about 60,000 Bosnians in Sweden, making it the Scandinavian favorite land of refuge, second only to Germany where about 320,000 Bosnians have lived since the breakout of the wars. But unlike Germany, there has been no attempt there at forcible repatriation of Bosnian refugees.

Instead, the Swedish government is offering 40,000 Swedish kronor (about $8,000) per adult to return to his or her country of origin. But there too only a few have been willing to accept the offer.

In Denmark, the smallest of the Scandinavian countries (population 5.5 million), there are some 16,000 Bosnians. Last year, all Bosnians who resided in Denmark for more than three years were given permanent resident status.

Now the government is offering 15,000 Danish kroner (about $2,500) to each refugee willing to leave. Few have accepted. The government is said to be considering increasing that sum to the level offered in neighboring Sweden. But it appears unlikely that this would make much difference.