Jasna Dedic´s memory about “ethnic cleansing”
Sejla Kameric´s memory about the civil war
Divided Bosnia and Herzegovina after Dayton, 1995
© Netzwerk Migration
Reconstruction Programme after Dayton
© Netzwerk Migration in Europa
Minority Returns, 1996-2006
Detention camps in Europe, 2005
Minority Returns, 1996-2006
Muslims expelled from Srebenica enclave, July 1995
© UNHCR / E. Dagnino
© Netzwerk Migration in Europa e.V.
Nenad Puhovski´s memory about the civil war in Croatia
Refugees from Bosnia, August 1995
Once an area of voluntary emigration mainly to western European countries, in particular Germany, today´s Bosnia has been characterized by forced migration since the early 1990s, due to ethnic conflicts between the Serbian, Muslim and Croatian population.
Between 1992 and 1995 Bosnia became a war-torn area, resulting in more or less ethnically cleansed areas, separating this former Yugoslavian republic into two entities: The Federation BiH and Republic Srpska. During the war (1992 to 1995) a huge proportion of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina was displaced due to physical destruction and devastation of their property in which they resided before the war, movement into safer areas, economic needs for the sustainability of families at the time of war and of course due to life threats.
As it was a conflict fueled by ethnic nationalism, people of minority ethnicity generally fled towards regions where their ethnicity was in a majority. While a million people (out of 4,4 million) fled to other countries (principally to other republics of former Yugoslavia, at least a further million were internally displaced. Countries of the region: Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia hosted almost 40% of the total number of BH refugees, while while Germany and Austria received the majority of Bosnian refugees from the region. At the same time an outstanding number of Bosnian refugees had been received in USA, Canada and Australia
At the end of the war in 1995 around one million persons were displaced in BiH, of which nearly one third within their domicile municipalities. Still, it should be kept in mind that the consequences of armed ethnic conflicts linger long after hostilities have ended and disappeared from the headlines. A number of potentially explosive situations have remained in the region after the conflict, causing the people to migrate further. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, even after the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed in December 1995, a huge number of the population continued migrating due to the violation of human rights of refugees returning to their place of origin, freedom of movement etc. Voluntary migrations of BH citizens who continued to emigrate from Bosnia and Herzegovina even after the establishment of peace, also increased as a consequence of the war conflict.
Return to Bosnia and Herzegovina started immediately after the end of the conflicts. According to the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a total of over one million returns to Bosnia and Herzegovina have been registered, out of which almost half were so-called minority returns. The largest number of returns was realized in the first three years after the establishment of the peace, with more than half of the total returns to/in Bosnia and Herzegovina so far. It was a period of “easier” returns, since refugees and displaced persons returned to their homes on a family reconnection principle. Similarly, a considerable number of returns was registered in the years after introduction of the “Property Law Implementation Plan” and is closely related to property repossession by pre-war owners and occupancy rights holders.
Now, ten years after the Dayton Peace Agreement (1995), almost half of the refugees and displaced BH citizens are outside their prewar homes. In the “Comparative Analysis on Access to Rights of Refugees and Displaced Persons” (issued by Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the end of 2005) it is stated that there are still half a million persons temporarily residing abroad. These people left Bosnia and Herzegovina in the period from 1992 to 1995 and are recorded as refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Out of this number, some 80% integrated into host countries, while around 100.000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina are still in need of long-term solutions, in the first place through return to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Despite the fact that radical demographic changes have been taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the beginning of the conflict in 1992, no official census in BH has been conducted since 1991. Indications of number, composition and disposition of population rely on research based on the most current estimates, which indicate slightly more than 4 million of the BH population. Therefore, a ten-year demographic balance recorded the loss of 288,032 inhabitants in relation to the potential number of population if there were no war. Regarding the number and composition of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2005, the most current is the assessment which cites 4,025,476 million inhabitants, as per ethnicity, including 48% Bosniaks (Muslim), 14.3% Croats, 37% Serbs and 0.6% others. Considering the expressed demographic changes on the basis of statistics and research carried out by the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is estimated that at the moment less than 3.5 million of BH inhabitants, that is 87.5%, reside in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the remaining number of around half a million citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have remained abroad.
Progress in BH society is slowed down in many fields. This particularly refers to economic and social development. As a consequence, potential returnees often face discouraging realities of life in BiH, such as a high poverty rate, a disturbing unemployment rate, a related lack of employment possibilities and a non harmonized educational system, often problematic access to pensions, medical services, necessary social welfare, etc.
Considering the return of refugees and displaced persons, Bosnia and Herzegovina has certainly achieved significant results, the best in terms of regional frameworks, and quite good and above the average in terms of long and similar refugee crises, taking a historical view. Regardless of achieved results and success, is still only halfway there, since there are a number of persons waiting to return and to access all rights that are part of the returning process. It is in the interest of Bosnia and Herzegovina to build up a system in a way that enables return and access to rights in BiH for each person, therefore one cannot talk about completing the implementation of the Annex VII of Dayton Peace Accord as long as there are groups or individuals interested in returning or accessing another right guaranteed in BiH.
After the elections held on the October 1st 2006, the main priorities for the newly elected presidents and representatives of parliament and municipalities in include constitutional reform and the ongoing Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations with the European Union. Stable economic development was the prerequisite for a stable democratic process and a sustainable future. Still, failure to arrest Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic not only impeded Bosnia and Herzegovina’s joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Partnership for Peace, but also postponed the healing of past wounds.
The elections that took place just a short time ago showed once again that the process of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s journey towards creating the image of a multicultural society is still very long. After the elections, it seems that nothing has changed. Even though the International Community is left believing that the representatives of nationalistic parties of old times have lost the elections, it is very untrue and the future of the country seems uncertain and more divided than ever.
The Dayton Peace Agreement established a state of Bosnia and Herzegovina with internal divisions – "Berlin Walls" separating one community from another because that was the only way to stop the war and build a tentative and fragile peace. Almost eleven years later, these internal walls must be torn down. The country’s people – Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks – must be allowed to mix, to integrate as different people do in other multi-ethnic states across the globe. The Dayton Agreement needs to be upgraded, needs to create new national institutions that can chart a new future for the country. This process has already begun, but there is a possibility that it will be slowed down again in the days to come. Bosnia is already confronted by a rise in the trafficking of persons, drugs, and weapons and organized crime, and so far Bosnia has responded by establishing certain institutions such as a State Border Service, a State Investigative and Protection Agency, and a national intelligence service. More recently, it has even agreed to a process of reforming the country’s police structures – a key step on its road to a future in Europe, in NATO and the EU. All of these processes have been started and need to be improved and developed, not suppressed or even stopped due to new nationalistic movements.
There is a big need for the improvement of infrastructure, economy, and industry; the unemployment rate is still very high; education needs to be improved and harmonized in both of the entities; the status of minorities (in particularly Roma) is still unclear; and all these are still tasks awaiting new parliamentary and presidential representatives from which people expect a lot in the next four years.
Bosnia should hope that leaders elected on the October 1st 2006 understand that a future membership in EU and NATO is essential for its people to prosper and thrive. More than a million people have returned to their pre-war homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with remarkably nearly half of those returning to areas where they find themselves an ethnic minority. These returns mark courageous acts that merit appreciation. But for Bosnian families to stay and thrive, to put down roots again, they need the kind of economic development that creates jobs and small enterprises and the security to maintain a still tenuous peace. Bosnia can only achieve that by understanding that one of the fundamental characteristics of any democracy, and especially constitutional democracies, is the ability and willingness of leaders to consider and implement reforms for the good of the people. Whether in Sarajevo, or even the city of Dayton, such reforms must rise above the interest of any one leader or party, and address the needs of the people. So today, Bosnia’s leaders should be called upon to continue building on the success of Dayton to meet those challenges through deeper and more meaningful reforms, even though it will be very hard considering the newly elected Presidency!