30 September 2004, Volume 6, Number 33
BOSNIA: HOW SHOULD SUSTAINABLE RETURN BE SUSTAINED?
A program of Radio Most (Bridge) by RFE/RL's Gordana Sandic Hadzihasanovic, with Eduard Katana.
RFE/RL: What conditions should be fulfilled for a sustainable return? We will start with Marko Paurevic from Komusina near Teslic.
Marko Paurevic: First, in Bosnia-Herzegovina laws reflecting internationally accepted principles should be applied. Second, the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina should be implemented in full. [Muslims] and Croats are legally entitled to return to the Republika Srpska, but how many returnees find work in state institutions there? If our state functioned as it should, that would be an easy matter to resolve, but the state does not function. Just look at our legislators: it takes them three days to approve the agenda of every single parliamentary session.
RFE/RL: Mirhunisa Zukic, president of the Alliance of the Refugees and Displaced Persons.
Zukic: Many laws are unclear and are applied differently in the two entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is why we do not have a real sustainable return in the regions where we intended to encourage families [to come back] and help them achieve a sustainable return.
In some regions, however, there are very good examples, and we hope that the alliance's role will be to coordinate all the associations that are making significant progress in promoting sustainable return, especially in finding jobs for the returnees, for both farmers and urban people.
RFE/RL: Milorad Muratovic is president of the Association of the Refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina in Serbia and Montenegro.
Muratovic: When journalists asked me two years ago how interested the refugees here are to return, I replied that I had not met a single man who would not like to go back home. But now, the problem is whether the necessary conditions for returning have been met.
Since the Dayton agreement, our association has been working on it, and some 7,000 people did return to Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, what I do not know is how many of them have actually stayed, and we should look at this issue carefully.
In fact, many of them left once again, since they were not able to find a job and earn money to live on. They simply sold everything and returned to the places where they had previously lived as refugees. They still live [in Bosnia], paying rent with the money they earned by selling their properties.
More than 25,000 refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina have died over the past five years. According to a study conducted by three institutes in Serbia, their deaths were mostly caused by the stress they had to endure. The stress first made them ill and then led to an early death.
Those who survived live in very difficult conditions. Aid donors are pulling out of [this region].... Serbia has not done anything so far to help resolve these problems, but Bosnia-Herzegovina is doing far more.
RFE/RL: Namik Alimajstorovic is president of the International Alliance of the Diaspora of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Alimajstorovic: The current situation shows that there cannot be a sizable return unless the returnees have sufficient medical care, schools, and other essentials that go beyond just housing alone. Unless the returnees have the necessary social services here, they will go back to where they spent the time since the war. That is the crux of the matter.
There is also a problem of unemployment in the cities, etc., problems of food supply in the villages and mining communities, and all manner of other issues that prevent people from living normally. Let me just give you the example of refugees now in Great Britain: out of 9,000 who fled there, only about 20 have returned.