UNHCR welcomes Serbia-Croatia agreement on refugee and return issues

Briefing Notes, 26 November 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 26 November 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR welcomes yesterday's announcement by the presidents of Croatia and Serbia of an agreement on resolving their two countries' mutual refugee and return issues. Successful resolution of these issues would be an important step towards solving one of the longest protracted refugee situations in Europe a legacy of the wars in this region of the 1990s.

Over the years, Serbia has been host to one of the largest populations of refugees and internally displaced persons in Europe. Of approximately 65,000 remaining Croatian refugees in Serbia, most live in private accommodation, but some 5,500, including a significant number of vulnerable people, have been housed in collective centres where conditions are poor.

In Croatia's case, there have been substantial refugee returns in recent years, although some returnees have faced difficulties in obtaining housing and taking advantage of socio-economic reintegration programmes. UNHCR has been working with the Government and the international community to resolve legal, social, and technical problems regarding return and reintegration.

While UNHCR has yet to see details of the Croatia-Serbia agreement, we hope that steps will be taken rapidly to translate this into concrete action that will enable the resolution of this long-standing situation, with the support of interested donors. UNHCR looks forward to working with partners toward this end.

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