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Bosnia: Berlin Pays Refugees To Return Home

Bonn, 10 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Berlin city government has introduced a program of providing financial assistance for Bosnian communities which accept repatriated refugees.

The program goes into effect next week. It offers up to DM 8,000 ($4,400) to assist infrastructure projects for communities which accept returning refugees from Berlin. Refugees themselves will receive up to DM 9,000 per family to assist their resettlement.

To avoid cheating, the money to both the community and the family will be paid only after the refugees are settled in the community.

A spokesman for the Berlin local government said around 22,000 refugees from the Yugoslav war are housed in the city. About 70 percent of them are Muslims or Croats from areas which suffered ethnic cleansing by Serb forces.

The spokesman said the assistance program would come into operation regardless whether they returned to their old homes in the Serb-controlled areas or settled in the Muslim-Croat federation.

Berlin is offering DM 2,500 to each adult and teenager. Younger children will be paid DM 1,000. However the maximum for a family is DM 9,000. The community receiving the repatriated refugees will be paid DM 1,000 for an individual and a maximum of DM 8,000 for families.

The money will be paid through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) once the family has arrived in the community.

The Berlin spokesman said today the program officially begins next week (April 17) and those wishing to take advantage of it must leave for their new home within 12 weeks.

The spokesman said the city's financial experts believe the program for each family will pay for itself within three months, through savings for the accommodation and care of refugees in Berlin.

A spokesman for the German office of the UN High Commission for Refugees today described the project as a "generous gesture," which was not matched anywhere else in Germany.

Some German provinces do offer assistance to returning refugees but the amounts are much smaller. For example, North Rhine-Westphalia pays individuals DM 1,000 per head. No German province offers financial benefits to the community receiving the refugees.