Donors gather in Sarajevo to support regional efforts to end displacement

Briefing Notes, 24 April 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 April 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is in Sarajevo this morning where he is attending an international donor conference aimed at generating funds to support the housing needs of the regions 74,000 highly vulnerable refugees, returnees and displaced people.

The conference is expected to raise up to 500 million Euros to be put into use over a five year period. If successful, the conference will be a turning point for thousands of people in protracted displacement in the four countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia nearly 16 years after the end of the conflict. The needs outlined in the regional housing plan have been identified by the respective governments through a consultative process supported by UNHCR, EU, the OSCE and the US. Our teams played a specific role in setting out the vulnerability criteria to ensure that the neediest get help. Part of the funding will come from the concerned countries.

The break-up of former Yugoslavia cost the lives of some 200,000 people and widespread destruction in many cities and villages. With more than two million people uprooted within and beyond the region, it was the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. A majority of the refugees have returned home over the past 16 years or have integrated locally. However, those who remain in displacement, often in abject poverty and in dire living conditions, are some of the most vulnerable and socially deprived people.

The donor conference in Sarajevo is the next step in the process of finding solutions. Following the Sarajevo declaration in January 2005, the situation was given a new impetus when the High Commissioner identified it as one of the five priority protracted refugee situations globally in 2008.

In November last year UNHCR welcomed the joint declaration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia. A result of intense efforts by the four countries, this declaration is a firm political, legal and socio-economic commitment on the part of the respective governments to cooperate at regional and national level in dealing with an enduring refugee problem for this part of Europe. The regional housing programme and its work plan were integral parts of this important declaration.

Following the donor conference, the proposed housing solutions should be implemented in the next three to five years. UNHCR, and in some countries OSCE, will monitor this crucial stage of the process and will remain fully engaged and committed to support the governments of the four countries in closing this refugee displacement chapter. We hope that todays donor conference will yield adequate support for this humanitarian effort.




The Global Report and Funding Reports

A comprehensive view of the refugee agency's challenges and achievements worldwide.


Governments, organisations and individuals who fund UNHCR's activities.

The Global Appeal and Supplementary Appeals

Alerting donors, organizations and individuals to the plight of millions of uprooted people.

Civil Registration and the Prevention of Statelessness: A Survey of Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians (RAE) in Montenegro

Results of a study carried out in 2008 by UNHCR, with support from the European Commission and UNICEF, May 2009.

Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees

A study of the lives of three Europeans who have been living as refugees in Serbia for more than 15 years.

Serbia is the only European country with a protracted refugee population. More than 90,000 refugees from Croatia and from Bosnia and Herzegovina remain there, victims of wars that erupted after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

These long-term refugees live under appalling conditions in dingy apartments and overcrowded collective centres – the nearest thing to refugee camps in modern Europe.

This set of pictures tells the story of three displaced people, the problems they face and their hopes for the future.

Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees

Angelina Jolie in Bosnia

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie met with forcibly displaced people on April 5, 2010 during her first visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, called for steps to end the continued suffering of these victims of the Bosnian War after hearing their harrowing tales and seeing their grim living conditions.

Jolie was clearly moved by the spirit - and the ordeal - of the people she met and she pledged to highlight their case. Most of the people she talked to have been living in exile since the end of the 1992-1995 conflict. Jolie visited collective centres in the towns of Gorazde and Rogatica, where the inhabitants lack basic services such as running water.

The actress spent some time with a group of women who were raped or tortured during the war. Their tales left a deep impression on her. She also met a family of refugee returnees who were still waiting to move into their village home near the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad.

Angelina Jolie in Bosnia

Prince Soniyiki, from Nigerian to "Croatian" in three years

Prince Wale Soniyiki, 29, is the poster boy for Croatia's refugee system. When Prince (that's his real name, not a royal title) arrived here from Nigeria three years ago, he felt like a "complete nobody." Today he has a good job, speaks the language fluently and is a well-known advocate for asylum-seekers, whose voices are rarely heard in Croatian society. Prince fled Nigeria in December 2011 after a bloody terrorist attack killed his brothers. A circuitous route through Libya and Italy eventually led him to Croatia.

Croatia, which joined the European Union in 2013, has a well-functioning asylum system. But it's rarely tested because nearly all asylum-seekers and refugees move on to other European countries, partly because integration into society is not easy. Prince, though, is making a life here. Two years ago he founded "Africans Living in Croatia" to help others like him integrate and to help Croatians better understand migrants. His passionate work grabbed the attention of the owner of a tuna farming company, who offered him a job on his boat on the Adriatic coast.

Prince Soniyiki, from Nigerian to "Croatian" in three years

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Serbia: Overstretched Borders

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