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USCRI World Refugee Survey 2003 Country Report


We did not do a country update on Yugoslavia in the 2004 Survey (and will not do one in the 2005 Survey either). Accordingly, searches for country information on Yugoslavia should lead the reader to the report in the 2003 Survey (and it should be clearly indicated that it is from the 2003 Survey).

World Refugee Survey 2003 Country Report

At the end of 2002, Yugoslavia hosted about 353,000 refugees, a 12 percent decrease from 2001. Nearly all are ethnic Serbs, the largest numbers from Croatia (228,000) and Bosnia (121,000). Around 3,500 Macedonian refugees, mainly Albanians, lived in Kosovo at the end of 2002, while 100 refugees from Macedonia also resided in Yugoslavia-proper. Yugoslavia continues to host the largest number of refugees in Europe.

At year's end, there were 262,000 internally displaced persons in Yugoslavia, including 234,000 displaced from Kosovo into Serbia and Montenegro and 27,500 displaced within Kosovo itself.

More than 32,000 Yugoslavs applied for asylum in other European countries during the year, representing a 16 percent increase from 2001. In 2002, Yugoslavs were the largest group of asylum seekers in Europe. The greatest number of Yugoslavs applied for asylum in Germany (13,800) and Sweden (5,900). Around 93,000 Yugoslavs had "toleration" status in Germany, and around 33,000 of them were non-Albanian Kosovars. About 8,600 Yugoslavs in Switzerland had "provisional admission" status.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that about 140 asylum seekers arrived in Yugoslavia in 2002, mostly from Iraq (77), and Afghanistan (34).

Political Developments In May 2002, the Government of Serbia adopted the "National Strategy for Resolving the Problems of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons." The Strategy addresses both integration and repatriation, with a focus on the former, since the majority of refugees from neighboring countries have expressed greater interest in integrating into Yugoslavia than returning to their countries of origin. It also aims to phase down collective centers by creating housing and increasing public assistance to collective center residents. The Strategy does not address the situation of internally displaced persons, however, nor does it apply to refugees from outside the region.

Kosovo remained under the administration of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). While NATO's Kosovo Protection Force (KFOR) had been guarding Kosovar Serbian enclaves since 1999, in 2002 they began to withdraw from fixed positions in many areas in order to encourage a more normalized environment and because of reduced troop contributions from NATO countries. This process has been unpopular among vulnerable Serb communities, and is likely to dissuade potential returnees who fear for their safety.

UNMIK's Office of Returns and Communities (ORC) undertook significant reforms during the year, launching the "Task Force on Returns" to coordinate efforts between international agencies, focusing on support of spontaneous returnees, as well as less numerous organized returns. ORC also created "Municipal Working Groups on Returns" to enable displaced persons to be able to request support to return.

Kosovo Premier Bajram Rexhepi has requested coordination with both UNMIK and Belgrade to encourage the return of displaced non-Albanians to Kosovo.

Refugees About 860 people also were resettled from Yugoslavia to third countries in 2002. The decrease in refugees hosted by Yugoslavia reflects return or resettlement, as opposed to local integration. However, many refugees in Serbia requested that their status be revoked, since they had obtained Yugoslav citizenship, and are no longer counted as refugees.

UNHCR directly assisted some 1,500 persons to return to Croatia, an 80 percent decrease from 2001, while it is estimated that 9,000 more returned voluntarily during the year. Many other Croatian Serbs in Yugoslavia have been unable to reclaim their homes, which were often occupied by Croats.

During the year, Yugoslavia hosted 121,000 Bosnian Serbs, most of whom have been the country since as early as 1992. The liberal border regime between Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serb entity, Republic Srpska, make an accurate estimate of the number of returns to Bosnia in 2002 difficult, as refugees may leave Yugoslavia without de-registering and enter Bosnia without registering. UNHCR directly assisted about 1,800 Bosnian Serbs to return to Bosnia in 2002, and estimates that a total of 15,000 repatriated during the year. Most of the returns have been to the Muslim-Croat entity known as the Federation, where Serbs would be in an ethnic minority.

Internal Displacement from Kosovo At the end of 2002, about 235,000 Kosovar Serbs and other non-Albanian Kosovars were displaced within Yugoslavia. The vast majority of these persons left Kosovo in June and July 1999, as Kosovar Albanians forced out by the Milosevic regime returned en masse.

In addition, 54,000 people remained internally displaced within Kosovo. Of these, UNHCR considered 22,500 "of concern," including Serbs, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians (RAE), and Bosnian Muslims, as well as Kosovar Albanians in areas where they constitute an ethnic minority.

The poor security situation for non-Albanians in Kosovo continued to prevent Serbs and other subgroups from returning to their pre-war homes. Many non-Albanians that do reenter Kosovo are unable to reclaim property and either remain displaced inside Kosovo or return to Serbia or Montenegro. High unemployment (over 50 percent), ethnic segregation, and continuing violence by non-state actors against non-Albanian Kosovars, including assault, threats, destruction of property, grenade attacks, and drive-by shootings, all have prevented returns. Some 1,900 internally displaced persons returned to their homes within Kosovo during the year. Only about 5,400 non-Albanians have returned to Kosovo since 1999.

Precise numbers of internally displaced persons are difficult to obtain, as many move within Yugoslavia without asking for internally displaced person cards or registering with the government or with UNHCR. The Yugoslav Government estimates that there are nearly 50,000 unregistered internally displaced persons living in Serbia and Montenegro. The same is true of returnees, as many voluntary and unassisted returns go unregistered.

Internal Displacement from Serbia Between January 2000 and May 2001, conflict between ethnic Albanians and Serb police resulted in the displacement of about 15,000 ethnic Albanians from the Presevo Valley area of southern Serbia into Kosovo. After the Serbian government and the so-called Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovic (UCPMB), an offshoot of the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, signed a peace agreement in May, about 10,000 persons who had been displaced into Kosovo returned to their homes in southern Serbia. The number of internally displaced persons from southern Serbia in Kosovo at year's end was roughly 5,000.

Kosovar Albanians After KFOR deployed in Kosovo in June 1999, a majority of Kosovar Albanians who had fled abroad returned to their places of origin within weeks. During 2002, an estimated 2,500 ethnic Albanians repatriated to Kosovo, mostly from Germany. Since voluntary returns to Kosovo began in 1999, more than 900,000 refugees have returned to Kosovo, including 430,000 from Albania, 224,000 from Macedonia, 90,000 from Germany, 44,000 from Switzerland, and 34,000 from Turkey.

Some 6,000 Kosovar Albanians were deported during 2002, with around 3,400 from Germany and 800 from Switzerland, while some 2,000 returned voluntarily, again mostly from Germany. About 2,500 Albanians were living in temporary collective shelters (TCS) in Kosovo at the end of 2002.

Most returning Kosovar Albanians do not face protection-related difficulties. However, those returning to areas where they constitute an ethnic minority, as well as those in ethnically mixed marriages, are considered by UNHCR to be in continued need of protection. Northern Mitrovica in particular continues to be a highly insecure area, where as many as 1,500 Albanians live under threat of violence from Serbs, some of whom have been displaced themselves from elsewhere in Kosovo.

Kosovar Serbs Some 160,000 Kosovar Serbs who fled Kosovo to escape retaliatory violence remained displaced in Serbia and Montenegro at the end of 2002. About 3,500 returned to Kosovo during the year. UNMIK's attempts at creating an environment to encourage Serb return to the region have been stymied by ethnic tensions, and the number of returns remains minuscule. On July 31, a few days after UNMIK had announced a pilot project intended to bring a few hundred Serbs back every month, and only hours after they had presented a positive report to the UN Security Council, several explosions damaged a number of Serb-owned homes in the northern village of Klokot.

Most internally displaced Serbs within Kosovo continued to be confined to northern Mitrovica, a few other Serb-controlled municipalities in northern Kosovo, and isolated enclaves protected by the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR). There were also roughly 800 displaced Serbs living in 26 temporary collective shelters in Kosovo at year's end.

Other Kosovars An estimated 75,000 non-Serbs and non-Albanians from Kosovo remained displaced in Serbia and Montenegro at the end of 2002. These included RAE, as well as Goranis, Bosnian Muslims, and Turks. According to UNHCR, roughly 1,400 Ashkalis, 600 Roma, 200 Bosnian Muslims and 76 Goranis returned to Kosovo during the year. The numbers of displaced Roma are particularly difficult to estimate, as they often join pre existing Roma communities in Serbia and Montenegro. Both the local and the displaced RAE occupied the lowest rungs on the socio-economic ladder, many working in jobs such as street cleaning and living in squalid slums in industrial sectors or in makeshift encampments under bridges or in abandoned buildings. Violence against Roma in Serbia itself, including physical attacks, is also on the rise-exacerbating their already difficult situation.

While the security situation continues to improve in Kosovo, the safety of these groups is still cause for concern. Bosnian Muslims and Goranis enjoy much better treatment than RAE, who are still subject to arson, grenade attacks, and physical assault. Mitrovica continues to be a dangerous area for all groups. Approximately 650 Roma were living in temporary collective shelters in Kosovo at the end of 2002.

Conditions for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Some 13,800 refugees in Yugoslavia lived in over 300 collective centers, along with internally displaced Serbs. Living standards in these centers are poor, with inadequate essential services such as water and sanitation, as well as separation from schools and job opportunities. These refugees and internally displaced persons constitute one of the most vulnerable groups in the country. Both refugees and internally displaced persons in Yugoslavia face impediments to local integration, including difficulties obtaining documents and registering their residence; thus they are particularly vulnerable to the country's poor economic condition, and are sometimes unable to access social benefits. International humanitarian assistance programs have been cut back, forcing these individuals to rely on the insufficient resources of the government.

About 140 new refugees and asylum seekers arrived in the FRY in 2002, though due to the absence of domestic refugee status determination, this number reflects only those who approached UNHCR's Belgrade office. Of these the majority were from Iraq (77) and Afghanistan (34).

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