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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Croatia


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Croatia

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Provide protection and legal assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees; promote and facilitate voluntary repatriation and return of refugees and internally displaced persons; facilitate sustainable reintegration of vulnerable returnees within their places of origin by providing initial assistance and short-term complementary, community-oriented programmes; ensure a safety net of essential social welfare, community services and health coverage for the most vulnerable individuals; support programmes for the care of chronically sick and disabled refugees; strengthen local institutions involved in promoting human and civil rights and the process of community reconciliation; and assist the Government in drafting national refugee legislation and establishing refugee status determination procedures.

Who we help

Some 56,000 persons, including 35,000 returnees, 12,000 refugees, 3,500 internally displaced persons, 5,000 vulnerable individuals (such as remainee minorities) and 500 refugees resettling to third countries.

Our requirements

US$ 18,425,912

Our offices

Zagreb, Sisak, Knin, Osijek, Daruvar.

Our partners

Croatian Government Office for Displaced Persons and Refugees (ODPR), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Croatian Red Cross (CRC), Caritas, Suncokret, Centre for Peace-Osijek (CFP), Merhamet, American Refugee Committee (ARC), Centre for Disaster Management (CDM), Association Mi, Committee for Human Rights-Karlovac (CHR), Handicap, Town of Pula, The Serbian Democratic Forum (SDF).


According to Government statistics, some 187,000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina fled to Croatia following the 1991-95 war in the former Yugoslavia. Another 180,000 persons became internally displaced within Croatia. Most Bosnian Croats who remained in Croatia have acquired Croatian citizenship. But there are still more than 31,000 refugees and more than 68,000 internally displaced persons in Croatia.

The Joint Working Group (JWG) Agreement, which includes the Croatian Government, UNHCR and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was established in April 1997 to formulate and oversee procedures for the return of internally displaced persons to and from the Danubian Region in Eastern Slavonia. Though the JWG has yet to complete its work, UNHCR and the international community secured from the Croatian Government an unequivocal commitment towards refugee returns when the Croatian Parliament unanimously endorsed the Government's Programme for the Return and Accommodation of Displaced Persons, Refugees and Resettled Persons in June 1998. This move resulted in the commencement of organized, voluntary returns from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) to Croatia.


UNHCR's main objective is to promote voluntary return and sustainable reintegration. Wherever necessary, UNHCR will support local settlement and resettlement options. Major challenges during 1999 will be determining how to sustain returns through their initial stages to long-term reintegration and how best to promote non-discriminatory development plans. UNHCR will focus efforts on protecting refugees and returnee citizenship rights; rehabilitating communities and building capacities of government and non-government institutions; and providing a safety net of critical health and social welfare services to the most vulnerable individuals. The agency will advocate for a non-discriminatory and gender-sensitive application of legislation concerning property issues and reconstruction assistance; and the agency will elaborate refugee status determination and asylum procedures and promote refugee law.


UNHCR and the international community applauded the Government's adoption of a Programme for Returns. In the first few months of its implementation, some 3,000 persons returned to their homes. Most of the returnees are elderly, with limited prospects for employment and/or self-reliance opportunities. Very few young persons of Serb ethnicity have returned. Such an imbalance in age and gender in the areas of return limits community development and erodes traditional sources of support available to vulnerable individuals. Dependence on humanitarian assistance grows.


Croatia hosts a significant, mainly Bosnian Croat, refugee population of which 80 per cent originates from the Republika Srpska. Almost 60 per cent of the refugees are female. Some 3,000 of them have suffered traumatic war-related experiences and are not expected to return to their places of origin. Some 400 refugees are considered as serious or advanced medical cases and are accommodated in suitably staffed and equipped collective centres. UNHCR will promote the return of Bosnian Croat and Muslim refugees and attempt to focus on solutions for those who occupy the houses of Croatian Serbs refugees who are presently in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, as repatriation may not be a viable or desirable option for a small number of refugees (such as Bosnian Muslims from minority areas), UNHCR will advocate local integration and/or resettlement. It is anticipated that up to 500 refugees will be resettled to third countries during 1999. Intensifying efforts that began in 1997, UNHCR will promote asylum-related institution-building activities in line with long-term strategies devised and implemented in many of the Central European States. UNHCR will provide technical assistance to the Government for the adoption of refugee-specific legislation and the establishment of refugee status determination procedures.

Internally Displaced Persons

Over the last few years the Government, UNHCR and the international community have promoted the return of internally displaced persons to their places of origin. Since the JWG Agreement was signed in 1997, fewer than 2,000 Croatian Serbs have returned from the Danubian region to former United Nations Sectors in organized returns. However, an estimated 15,000-20,000 persons have returned spontaneously. The number of ethnic Croatians returning to that region has also been fewer than the Government predicted. But the most disturbing development is that an estimated 50,000 Croatian Serbs (both displaced persons and long-term residents) left the Danubian region for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. For the most part, those who remain are not there through their own choice. They are often elderly, disabled, sometimes abandoned persons without access to property and/or self-support mechanisms. During 1999, UNHCR will provide essential protection and humanitarian assistance to approximately 3,500 vulnerable internally displaced persons. Support will be offered to those who desire to return to their place of origin, either through the mechanism of the JWG or in self-assisted returns. UNHCR, with the support of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Monitoring Mission (ECMM) and other human rights-related agencies, will also monitor internally displaced persons throughout the country.


While UNHCR is shifting its focus from providing classic care and maintenance programmes to supporting durable solutions through returns and sustainable reintegration, there remains a strong humanitarian and protection aspect to assistance projects. UNHCR will assist vulnerable returnees by providing household items and agricultural tools that will complement ECHO's food assistance programme. UNHCR will also repair the destroyed or damaged private houses of vulnerable returnees and, in some of the most isolated villages, will repair community buildings such as schools, clinics and community centres. The agency will link all reconstruction activities to those of the national and municipal government programmes and the longer-term development-oriented agencies.

Collaboration with the United Nations Mine Action Centre (UNMAC), UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO will be strengthened. Small-scale, micro-start activities and self-reliance projects will help secure a limited income and encourage self-sufficiency for those in most need. A safety net of essential community and psycho-social services, individual counselling and health coverage, will target the most vulnerable individuals who have no recourse to State or alternative services. A network of national NGOs providing protection and legal assistance will be established to help individuals and families claim their citizens' rights and entitlements, including pensions, social welfare services, health care and property. An area-by-area public-information strategy will be used to provide appropriate and timely information on conditions for return.


UNHCR will organize a number of coalition fora with the participation of the donor community and all organizations involved to coordinate such activities as reconstruction projects and humanitarian assistance. The agency will also co-chair, along with the Government, a Coordination Committee for the Programme for Returns. The Committee will submit its analysis and recommendations to the highest level of the Government, and will also encourage donors to finance the Programme for Returns.

UNHCR, together with OSCE, United Nations agencies and non-governmental implementing partners, established a national coordination structure, known as the Return Facilitation Group, which monitors the implementation of the return programme at the field level.


There remain a number of obstacles on the way to the return and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons. The Programme for Returns was established only after considerable international pressure. Croatia's acceptance into European and international institutions and assistance programmes (for example, Pologne Hongrie Assistance Restructuration de l'Economie, PHARE) is, in part, conditional on the Government's ability and willingness to translate their return strategies into tangible results on the ground. The Government's desire to convene an internationally endorsed Conference on Reconstruction and Development (in Zagreb in late 1998) was also dependent upon them presenting a National Reconstruction Plan that addressed all sections of society, irrespective of ethnic origin, within the areas of refugee and displaced persons return. There is the possibility that, now that there has been an international endorsement of its reconstruction and development policies, the Government may slow down its return activities. Other obstacles to return are the difficult socio-economic conditions pervasive in war-affected areas (Karlovac south to Knin, Western Slavonia and the Danubian region), minority groups' lack of access to limited income-generating and employment opportunities, and the complex process of property restitution. It remains to be seen whether the Government will work vigorously, through the Housing Commissions and the municipal courts, to resolve the problems of refugees/returnees whose homes are occupied either legally or illegally by Bosnian Croat refugees/settlers and other citizens. Ethnic tensions remain a serious threat to reintegration efforts. While the process of inter-ethnic reconciliation looks more promising as time passes, continued economic deprivation, including limited employment prospects, could ignite conflict.

Budget US$

ActivitiesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support1,002,000
Shelter/Other Infrastructures2,738,406
Community Services1,755,396
Legal Assistance/Protection980,312
Agency Operational Support890,021
Programme Delivery Costs*4,461,873
Administrative Support Costs964,039

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.