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Update on regional developments in the former Yugoslavia Session

Executive Committee Meetings

Update on regional developments in the former Yugoslavia Session

2 April 1998


I. Overview

1. Continued obstacles to implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (GFAP) were experienced throughout 1997. Signs were also evident, however, that implementation of the peace agreement was intensifying, along with the process of normalization in the entire region of the former Yugoslavia.

2. The impatience of the international community with regard to the slow implementation of the GFAP was expressed by the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) at meetings of its Steering Board in Sintra in May 1997 and, more recently, at its ministerial level meeting in Bonn on 9 and 10 December 1997. The latter broadened the mandate of the High Representative, allowing him to take binding interim decisions when parties are unable to reach an agreement on matters considered essential to implementation of the GFAP. The High Representative used these powers at the beginning of 1998 to take decisions regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina's new common currency, flag and uniform licence plates.

3. UNHCR's priorities remained the full implementation of Annex 7 of the GFAP and to promote durable solutions for refugees and displaced persons throughout the region. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNHCR's efforts to accelerate the return process included the facilitation of meetings between groups of displaced persons and local authorities, the establishment of a network of legal centres throughout both Entities, and the convening of a Consultative Working Group on Repatriation bringing together representatives of host countries. In February 1997, the Reconstruction and Return Task Force (RRTF), chaired by the Office of the High Representative, was created in an effort to link repatriation and return to the reconstruction effort in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The RRTF was further reinforced by the Bonn PIC meeting, and the Office of the High Representative (OHR) has named a new Deputy High Representative for RRTF matters. The two meetings of the Humanitarian Issues Working Group (HIWG), chaired by the High Commissioner in April and December 1997, endorsed UNHCR planning for repatriation and return in 1997 and 1998 respectively.

4. During 1997, municipalities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina gradually became more receptive to dialogue regarding minority return movements and both inter-Entity and intra-Entity assessment visits increased considerably. Nevertheless, the forces of ethnic separation continued to work against return and the right to remain, as demonstrated by the destruction and burning of houses in returnee areas, attacks on returnees and prospective returnees, and demonstrations. So-called "minority return" movements remained limited. UNHCR estimates that only some 45,000 such returns occurred in 1996 and 1997 combined. UNHCR's main priority in 1998 will therefore be the repatriation of refugees and the return of displaced persons to minority areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina. UNHCR will also intensify efforts to facilitate repatriation and return throughout the region. Responding to a call by the Bonn PIC meeting, UNHCR has also begun consultations on a regional strategy for the repatriation of refugees.

5. To promote minority returns in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNHCR introduced the "Open City" initiative in the spring of 1997. The initiative, whereby municipalities which agree to accept the return of minorities will be given encouragement and assistance by the international community, was well received, and the first Open Cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina were formally declared on 1, 2 and 3 July 1997. By mid-March 1998, ten municipalities had received Open City status, including four municipalities in the Republika Srpska: Sipovo, Mrkonjic Grad, Srbac and Laktasi.

6. The election of Milorad Dodik in January 1998 as Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska, following OSCE-monitored municipal elections in September 1997 and Republika Srpska Assembly elections in November 1997, can be seen as a turning point in implementation of the peace agreement. His willingness to cooperate with the international community on return issues and other aspects of the GFAP has been met with pledges of assistance to the Republika Srpska. An increasing number of Serb displaced persons in the Republika Srpska have expressed their interest in returning to their pre-war homes in the Federation.

7. In Croatia, the mandate of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Eastern Sirmium (UNTAES) came to an end on 15 January 1998, at which time Croatia assumed full sovereignty over the Croatian Danube region. The Agreement of the Joint Working Group on the Operational Procedures for Return was signed in April 1997 between the Government of Croatia, UNHCR and UNTAES. The agreement creates a mechanism for so-called "two-way returns" of Croatian citizens into and out of the Danube region. In October 1997, the Croatian Government adopted a Programme of Trust, Accelerated Return and Normalisation of Living Conditions in the War Affected Regions of the Republic of Croatia. Additional agreements were signed within the context of the Normalisation Agreement between Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

8. Progress in implementing the "two-way" return process, however, remained slow and international pressure to comply with established procedures was placed on the Government of Croatia. Concern was also voiced over the treatment of Croatian Serbs in the Croatian Danube region. UNHCR promoted discussions on the issue of repatriation of Croatian Serbs in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well as the "two-way" return and exchange of property between Croatian Serbs in the Republika Srpska and of Bosnian Serbs currently in Croatia. By early 1998, however, movements of Croatian Serbs out of the Danube region intensified. By mid-March 1998, Norway reported receiving over 1,300 asylum-seekers from the region, whereas the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia reported receiving over 50,000, including Croatian Serbs who began leaving the area in November 1996 when it was still under UNTAES administration.

9. The majority of refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia continued to face hardship, amidst a climate of high unemployment, rising inflation, continuing sanctions and political isolation. The international community became deeply concerned about developments in Kosovo in February and March 1998. UNHCR is assisting 14,000 refugees, mainly Croatian Serbs, in the Kosovo region. In response to events in Kosovo in early 1998, UNHCR participated in United Nations contingency planning efforts in Albania and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

A. Financial requirements

10. The initial 1997 budget for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was $ 233.8 million. However, due to a funding shortfall, this amount was reduced to $ 175.8 million by the end of the year, with an additional $ 10 million being obligated under a Trust Fund arrangement. These figures include all programme delivery and administrative support costs in the region and at Headquarters.

11. The costs for liaison posts in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Sweden were covered under General Programmes. A small budget was also allocated to refugees of other nationalities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Responsibility within UNHCR for The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia was transferred to the Regional Bureau for Europe at the end of 1997. Details of the 1998 programme for these countries can be found in the regional overview of Europe (EC/48/SC/CRP.9).

12. For 1998, the total budget under the Special Programmes is $ 187 million, including support at Headquarters. Under General Programmes, some $ 750,000 have been budgeted for a small group of refugees of other nationalities in Serbia and for the liaison posts in Western Europe mentioned above.

13. Further budgetary details are provided in the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for the region, issued in November 1997.

B. Oversight reports

14. The former Yugoslavia was included in an evaluation of field staff stress and security carried out by UNHCR in mid-1996 for the purpose of making necessary recommendations and applying lessons learned. The former Yugoslavia was one of the highly sensitive areas which called for special attention to be paid to the stress and security of staff, essentially through providing security-related briefings and preparation for assignment, relief from stress while in the area and debriefing at the end of assignment. In general, advances were made in UNHCR's stress and security awareness and management, and in cooperation on security matters with the peace-keeping forces.

15. A review of UNHCR's assistance to older refugees was undertaken during late 1997 by UNHCR's Inspection and Evaluation Service. The evaluation team travelled to field locations within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The resulting report provides an examination of lessons learnt and offers recommendations on policy options to address the problems experienced by elderly refugees. The main findings of the review relate to the loss of traditional family structures and support in many situations of concern to UNHCR. As a result, older refugees are often perceived by the community as a burden and are sometimes abandoned. One of UNHCR's objectives is to fight such negative perceptions by treating the elderly as assets to the community rather than as liabilities. One significant observation of the review was that older refugees could play an important role in the realm of reconciliation.

II. Country reviews

A. Bosnia and Herzegovina

(a) Beneficiaries

16. It is estimated that 1.2 million refugees fled from Bosnia and Herzegovina during the conflict, of whom 88,000 repatriated in 1996 and up to 120,000 in 1997. While many have benefited from a stable status in the country of asylum, it is foreseen that up to 220,000 refugees could repatriate in 1998. The number of returnees and the pace of their movements will depend on a breakthrough in minority returns, further normalization of relations among States in the region and the policy decisions related to return adopted by certain host countries.

17. Some 600,000 internally displaced persons are beneficiaries of UNHCR assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within the refugee and displaced populations, groups of specific concern include single female-headed households, children, war-traumatized persons, the chronically ill and the elderly. Women comprise 55 per cent of the beneficiary population and children under 14 years of age represent some 30 per cent.

18. The Republika Srpska also hosts some 40,000 to 50,000 Croatian refugees of Serb origin. The majority of them will opt for voluntary repatriation to Croatia, should the Government of Croatia facilitate such movements.

(b) Recent developments and objectives

19. In the two years since the signing of the GFAP, more than 200,000 refugees have repatriated. Most returnees arrived from Germany. At least 95,000 refugees repatriated from Germany in 1997 alone. The percentage of those participating in assisted movements and benefiting from national repatriation incentive programmes increased from some 30 per cent in 1996 to some 60 per cent in 1997. In view of the difficulties facing returnees in the areas of shelter and employment, repatriation incentive schemes proved important in 1997. In addition to this, during the same two-year period, 222,000 internally displaced persons have returned to their home areas, 164,000 in 1996 and 58,000 in 1997, of whom some 45,000 were minority returns.

20. During 1997, most returnees proceeded to the urban areas of the Sarajevo, Una-Sana and Tuzla-Podrinje Cantons although, for many, these were not their areas of origin. Relocation, entailing the repatriation of refugees to areas other than their areas of origin, is a growing phenomenon. Recent studies on limited returnee groups indicated a relocation rate of 40 to 50 per cent in the second half of 1997. The repatriation of refugees who have relocated upon return has contributed significantly to the problem of displaced persons, and the situation is likely to worsen in 1998, compounding problems of multiple occupancy or the temporary occupation of property. These problems are closely linked to the fact that most refugees remaining in West European countries who are in need of durable solutions originate from the areas where they would be in the minority today.

21. In March 1997, UNHCR launched its "Open Cities" initiative with the aim of encouraging minority return, which has been positively accepted and supported by the international community and some governmental and municipal authorities. UNHCR has now recognized a total of 10 Open Cities, including six in the Federation (Konjic, Busovaca, Vogosca, Bihac, Gorazde and Kakanj) and four in Republika Srpska (Mrkonjic Grad, Sipovo, Laktasi and Srbac). Further negotiations with a number of municipalities considered as potential Open Cities are expected to lead to their recognition during 1998. In addition, UNHCR has been actively promoting and supporting the development of Cantonal and Inter-Entity return plans, as stipulated in the final declaration of the PIC meeting in Bonn in December 1997.

22. In line with the Open Cities initiative in 1997, UNHCR supported communities receptive of minority returns with a range of income- and employment-generating activities. In the Tuzla area, 465 returnee families within the Zone of Separation (ZoS) and Brcko were provided with return packages worth DM 1,000 per family, mainly consisting of livestock and agricultural tools which would allow them to resume farming activities. In addition, 50 agricultural loans were provided in the same area to support small scale initiatives such as bee-keeping and livestock farming. With the recognition of Konjic as an Open City, UNHCR provided establishment grants of $ 5,000 each to 24 families in the city and the surrounding villages. The beneficiaries used the funds for agricultural activities and to restart the production of dairy products. Recognizing the potential for minority returns to Republika Srpska, UNHCR, in August 1997, funded a public works project in Sipovo municipality which entailed the cleaning of damaged houses prior to reconstruction, reforestation, as well as an apprentice programme employing over 300 workers at DM 150 per month. This project was undertaken in close cooperation with the municipal authorities in Sipovo and led to further returns.

23. The assistance programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1997 continued to cover activities such as the provision of assistance to returnees and targeted support to extremely vulnerable individuals and residents of collective centres. In order to facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their home areas, and to make such returns durable and sustainable, UNHCR's assistance programme in 1997 was focused on shelter repair, income-generation and micro-credit projects. UNHCR repaired a total of 7,946 dwellings (houses and apartments) during 1997, in cooperation with seven implementing partners. Additionally, 15,852 units were repaired by other agencies, the majority by the European Commission and the World Bank, throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Based on experience gained in 1997, UNHCR has established its own demining teams, to be operated under the demining programme implemented by UNDP and the Mine Action Centre, in order to support return movements in 1998.

24. UNHCR continued its cooperation with the World Bank and the Local Initiatives Department (LID) in 1997, and provided a micro-credit fund totalling DM 1 million to support economically disadvantaged families. A total of 279 loans were approved ranging from DM 1,500 to 5,000.

25. In view of its specific protection mandate, particularly under Annex 7 of the GFAP, UNHCR is promoting, facilitating and monitoring the return of refugees and displaced persons in safety and dignity, with particular focus on minority return. This includes working with the authorities to address political, legal and administrative obstacles to return, particularly in respect to property, amnesty, registration, documents, security and freedom of movement, in cooperation with the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other key international and national institutions. Other activities include training and capacity-building, support for civil society, the establishment of legal aid and information centres, and the introduction of legislative reform relating to displacement, return and repatriation, citizenship, immigration and asylum.

26. In 1998, UNHCR is particularly focusing its activities in Open Cities and areas where minority returns are actually occuring.

(c) Implementing partners/arrangements

27. A list of partners by activity and location is provided in Annex 2. This list does not include partners operating under the Bosnian Women's Initiative. In addition, UNHCR implements a number of programme activities directly.

(d) Budget

28. Budgetary figures are provided in Annex 1. Further information may be found in the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (January - December 1998) issued in November 1997.

(e) Post situation

29. The total number of posts in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1998 has been reduced from 1997 levels and now totals 329 posts (326.3 workyears) as at 1 January 1998, as compared to 380 posts (343.3 workyears) in 1997. The Offices of the Special Envoy for the region and the Chief of Mission are in Sarajevo. The four sub- and field offices, covering local and field issues, are located in Sarajevo (with presences also in Pale and Gorazde), Banja Luka (Bihac, Drvar, Livno and Sanski Most), Tuzla (Doboj, Brcko and Zvornik) and Mostar (Zenica, Konjic and Trebinje).

(f) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, elderly, environment)

30. The Bosnian Women's Initiative (BWI) was established in 1996 with the objective of empowering women in Bosnia and Herzegovina and helping rebuild their lives and contribute towards rehabilitation. In 1997, the BWI projects continued to address the needs of women in both Entities, with an emphasis on building, enhancing and supporting local capacity to reduce the dependency of the communities on international assistance and assist them to assume increased responsibility.

31. During 1997, the UNHCR assistance programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to give priority attention to specific vulnerable groups, including female heads of households and their dependants, in the distribution of food and other assistance items (clothing, domestic items, medicine and shelter materials). Under the community services sector, the psycho-social and rehabilitation needs of war-affected women were addressed through the provision of vocational training, counselling and income-generation opportunities. The needs of war-affected children were addressed through the running of community-based centres.

32. Under the UNHCR programme in 1997, 32 schools, many of which had been used previously as collective centres, were repaired and rendered operational, as well as 19 public-health facilities, many of which were community-based primary health care centres. The rehabilitation of schools and health facilities will continue in 1998, focusing particularly on recognized Open Cities.

33. A Geographical Information System (GIS) was established in Sarajevo to assist UNHCR and its partners in reintegration and planning processes. Information on returnees, landmines, ethnic distribution, as well as shelter, is collected on a regular basis. The system is currently helping UNHCR to monitor the return of the refugees in the former Yugoslavia.

(g) Oversight reports

34. An internal audit of UNHCR accounts was undertaken in May 1997, and UNHCR has responded satisfactorily to all the queries raised by the United Nations Internal Audit Division. An external audit was also conducted on the UNHCR accounts in Bosnia and Herzegovina in October/November 1997.

35. An evaluation of the emergency food assistance to returnees, refugees, displaced persons and other war-affected populations in Bosnia and Herzegovina was undertaken jointly by UNHCR and WFP in late 1997. A general conclusion of the evaluation was that in this operation, one of the largest initiatives ever undertaken by the international community, UNHCR and WFP succeeded in ensuring that there was no widespread hunger and malnutrition. In addition, even under the difficult and politically complex conditions of the war, food assistance reached the most needy people. The success of the airlift to Sarajevo was duly emphasized. It was recognized, however, that difficulties of access had sometimes seriously limited the amount of food and additional assistance distributed to other besieged cities. Regarding the period following the signing of the GFAP and the assumption of full responsibility for food procurement and distribution by WFP, the mission was not convinced of the rationale for the establishment of a full-scale peace-time programme and cautioned against food aid being seen as an alternative to the establishment of a social welfare system. The mission concluded that overall, cooperation and communication between the two agencies were remarkably good during the period under review, although there were occasional difficulties. The 10 recommendations made in the mission report provided possible means of avoiding disagreements and the improvement of concerted efforts in future operations.

36. An evaluation by UNHCR's Inspection and Evaluation Service of the shelter programme in this region is at present in progress. The conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina has resulted in serious damage and destruction to the country's building infrastructure. With the gradual establishment of conditions for the return of refugees and displaced persons, the rehabilitation of collective accommodation and private and public buildings has taken on primary importance in UNHCR's programme. The evaluation will thus consider the planning and implementation of the UNHCR programme and assess how far it has contributed to creating the right conditions for the sustainable return of refugees and displaced persons.

B. Croatia

(a) Beneficiaries

37. Official Croatian Government statistics, as compiled by the Office for Displaced Persons and Refugees (ODPR), remain fluid. As at mid-March 1998, more than 50,000 refugees and approximately 94,000 internally displaced persons were registered in Croatia. Meanwhile, up to 80,000 persons, mainly the internally displaced, had returned home since 1996.

38. The Government continues to de-register Bosnian Croat refugees who are in full possession of Croatian citizenship papers, although some 30,000 are expected to remain with refugee status until a durable solution can be found and who, for the most part, desire to return home to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Government will also continue to de-register displaced persons whose property has been reconstructed by the State and those returnees who have been back home for longer than six months.

39. Organized return of internally displaced persons through the Joint Working Group on Returns (JWGR) mechanisms and the official mechanism for refugees returning to Croatia (mainly from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) has been extremely slow. In addition, the provision of returnee status for those who returned outside of the above mentioned mechanisms, i.e. spontaneously, has been delayed.

40. In spite of this situation, UNHCR's support of the Government's registration exercise during the first half of 1997 is considered a successful investment. UNHCR's support consisted of new computers and operational support at the field level. The availability of credible statistics has been the most apparent result. Perhaps more important, however, is the continual maintenance, management and update of the ODPR database. UNHCR is being provided with access to a substantial amount of data that will facilitate socio-economic and demographic mapping exercises for return and repatriation planning.

41. The expected returns to the former United Nations sectors or local settlement within the Croatian Danube region of Croatian Serb displaced persons did not materialize as expected during 1997. Following the reintegration of the UNTAES-administered region into Croatia, however, a large-scale population movement of Croatian Serb displaced persons out of the country and into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been observed. ODPR's recent validation exercise within the Danube region will provide clearer indications of the number of remaining displaced Croatian Serbs, presently estimated at some 12,000, and Bosnian Serb refugees in that region.

42. The Government of Croatia has indicated publicly that a large-scale return movement of displaced ethnic Croats back to the Danube region will take place during 1998. The difficulties of general economic revitalization and unavailability of employment opportunities will remain major hurdles for those intending to return to the region. It is generally accepted that any such large-scale population movements would most likely occur during the middle and late summer months, particularly during the school vacation period.

(b) Recent developments and objectives

43. The departure of UNTAES, which corresponded with the establishment of a revamped OSCE mission in Croatia, has signalled a new era in post-war developments in Croatia. The international community has repeatedly urged Croatia to comply fully with its commitments under the Dayton and Erdut Agreements and to ensure the provision of full civil and human rights for all its citizens. The creation of a National Commission for the Re-establishment of Trust by the Government in 1997 has so far had little positive impact at the local level. UNHCR recognizes that the reconciliation process is fraught with difficulty and remains the most sensitive of issues for the Government and for many Croatians, especially those directly affected by the war. For this reason, the Office will continue to implement a community-sensitive approach in all its protection and assistance activities in the country.

44. Since early 1997, UNHCR activities have aimed at ensuring a smooth transition from post-war humanitarian assistance to the adequate provision of protection within a country that hopes to integrate fully into the European institutions. As UNHCR remains the lead agency which provides protection and assistance to refugees and returnees in Croatia, it will seek to dovetail its post-emergency programmes with development-related activities implemented by the Government and other players in areas of return. Strengthening dialogue and cooperation with the line Ministries, longer-term development agencies, financial institutions and implementing partners will facilitate this transition. Linkages will be ensured between repatriation and return to areas affected by the war, as well as the rehabilitation and development processes in Croatia. UNHCR therefore views the socio-economic development of returnee areas as a key priority for governmental institutions and international and non-governmental organizations.

45. UNHCR will continue to focus its efforts in Croatia on a number of core operational priorities that embody a regional approach to promoting durable solutions for persons of concern. Regional and country level initiatives in respect to voluntary repatriation from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with voluntary repatriation from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina, will remain the main operational objectives of the Office. To this end, UNHCR will lead and/or facilitate the establishment of coalitions and fora, with a view to developing policies and strategies with the participation of the Government and international and national bodies and organizations. Key areas and issues will be monitoring (including civil and human rights, reconciliation processes, equitable and fair application of national law, etc.), humanitarian assistance, legal assistance/human rights, reconstruction and development, and repatriation/return (coordinated regional approach, mechanisms, logistics, linkages to reconstruction, etc.).

(c) Implementing partners/arrangements

46. UNHCR will work with 23 implementing partners during 1998. A list of these partners by activity and location is attached as Annex 3.

(d) Budget

47. Budgetary figures are provided in Annex 1. Further information may be found in the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal issued in November 1997.

(e) Post situation

48. In view of the gradual phasing down of activities in Croatia, the staffing level will be further reduced in 1998 and 1999, and several field offices will be closed by the end of 1998 (Sisak, Karlovac, Daruvar and Vukovar). The current number of posts is 127 (113.8 workyears) as compared to 171 posts (159 workyears) in 1997.

(f) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, elderly)

49. During 1997, refugee women benefited from programmes designed to encourage their active role in decisions on repatriation or local integration. Various vocational training courses (for example, language, computer skills, tailoring) were organized to increase the potential for refugee women to be employed. They were also provided with legal assistance through information and counselling centres managed by UNHCR's implementing partners. Special attention has been paid to pregnant women who were included in counselling and training programmes.

50. UNHCR has ensured the enrolment of all refugee children in elementary schools, as well as the provision of necessary books and didactic materials. Those children who moved from "refugee schools" to regular schools have been helped to do so through tutorial programmes. Refugee children with special needs and destitute/malnourished refugee children are of special concern to UNHCR.

51. Dependent and unaccompanied elderly refugees have been provided with specialized help through home visitation programmes.

(g) Oversight reports

52. An internal audit was conducted in June 1997. UNHCR Croatia provided clarification and answers to all queries raised and undertook corresponding corrective measures.

C. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

(a) Beneficiaries

53. Under the census conducted in mid-1996 by the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees in Serbia and the Commissioner for Displaced Persons in Montenegro, with UNHCR support, a total of 566,275 refugees were registered as coming from the area of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Since then, up to the end of 1997, approximately 16,000 refugees found lasting solutions through UNHCR-assisted voluntary repatriation (2,102) and resettlement abroad (14,152), which was processed through UNHCR, IOM or directly through embassies. Based on these figures, there are some 550,000 registered refugees currently living in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to the above census, over half of the refugees originate from Croatia, while the reminder are from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only a few thousand are from Slovenia and from The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In addition, as of January 1998, there were 22 asylum-seekers and mandate refugees from countries outside the region. These persons are supported, as required, with care and maintenance assistance until a durable solution, resettlement or repatriation, if feasible, can be identified.

54. During 1997, UNHCR assisted 974 refugees to repatriate voluntarily (213 to Bosnia and Herzegovina and 761 to Croatia). An estimated further 25,000 are believed to have repatriated spontaneously to Croatia and to Bosnia and Herzegovina without UNHCR assistance, and a small number reportedly acquired Yugoslav citizenship. According to Government sources, several tens of thousands of refugees have been registered since the census was undertaken.

55. The first quarter of 1998 witnessed a steady exodus of persons leaving the Danube region in Croatia, the majority of whom are applying for asylum in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. UNHCR is in consultation with the Commissioner for Refugees of the Republic of Serbia concerning the application of the 1951 Convention on Refugees.

56. In April 1997, the number of refugees receiving direct material and food assistance was reduced to 250,000. To ensure that the most vulnerable continued to benefit from humanitarian assistance, targeting criteria were discussed between the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), WFP, the Yugoslav Red Cross, the Offices of the Commissioners for Refugees/Displaced Persons of Serbia and Montenegro and UNHCR. The beneficiary groups included children 0 to 18 years of age, the elderly over 64 years of age and the most vulnerable refugees in the remaining age category, such as those suffering from a disability or an illness which renders them unable to support themselves. These 250,000 beneficiaries of direct assistance include the majority of the 50,000 refugees accommodated in collective centres and specialized institutions who are the most destitute. They receive no support from relatives and therefore rely almost entirely on humanitarian assistance.

57. The majority of the refugees stay in private accommodation, the standard of which may vary greatly. A high number of vulnerable, destitute refugees live in sub-standard accommodation, such as outhouses, cellars or garages. They may be dependent on neighbours, friends or local authorities for firewood or coal for heating and cooking. Some 200,000 refugees in private accommodation are dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive and are included as beneficiaries of direct assistance.

58. According to the 1996 census, a total of 53 per cent of refugees are female, while 26.8 per cent of the total refugee population is between 0 and 18 years old. More than 12.5 per cent (some 72,500 persons) of all refugees are 65 years of age or older. In contrast, only 21.7 per cent of the population in collective centres are children and adolescents, while 23.6 per cent of the population (some 11,000 persons) in collective accommodation are elderly.

(b) Recent developments and objectives

59. During 1997, UNHCR continued to promote voluntary repatriation through the dissemination of information on conditions of return, as well as "go and see visits". The numbers of refugees who were able to repatriate, however, remained low and the final numbers of return fell very far short of the projected figures for the year.

60. As indicated in the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal, UNHCR's 1998 planning figure for voluntary repatriation to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia is 50,000 persons. Recent political developments in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina give reason to hope for improved prospects for repatriation in 1998, as compared to 1997. In 1998, UNHCR is providing refugees with precise information on the areas of return and facilitating "go and see" visits. Information on repatriation is provided through the media, as well as through UNHCR special briefings organized in municipalities throughout the country. Refugees are informed about their fundamental right to repatriate and those seriously considering repatriation are encouraged to register for voluntary repatriation.

61. Following the signing of the GFAP in Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Nations imposed sanctions on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were lifted. The "outer wall of sanctions", impeding access to World Bank and International Monetary Fund support, however, affects the economy and does not allow the country to benefit from programmes funded by the main international financial institutions. An important indicator of the situation is the alarmingly high unemployment rate that has been officially stated as having reached 25 per cent at the end of 1997. Under these conditions, it is extremely difficult for refugees to find employment which would allow them to become less dependent on humanitarian assistance. Therefore, since 1996, UNHCR has funded income-generation projects for self-employment in order to give refugees an opportunity to become more self-reliant. Projects which have allowed refugees to establish small businesses will continue to be supported throughout 1998. It is estimated that by the end of 1998, over 25,000 refugees will have benefited from the programme.

62. While repatriation is a priority, it is expected that many refugees will seek to integrate in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. UNHCR, in cooperation with the Government, will also continue to develop shelter projects which provide refugees with durable accommodation and employment. Vulnerable refugees, mainly those in collective centres, will be provided with housing, as well as land for crop production and/or jobs in the community to enable them to become self-supportive. The need for such projects far exceeds UNHCR's capacity and it is hoped that donors will come forward to facilitate the integration of refugees wishing to remain in the country.

63. A new law on citizenship came into force on 1 January 1997, which may open the door for the naturalization of some refugees. UNHCR will continue to provide refugees with counselling on legal issues related to repatriation, required documentation and clearances, applications for citizenship, property claims, payment of pensions and other questions related to their present status in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

64. While UNHCR's 1998 programme seeks to diminish the dependence of refugees on humanitarian assistance, at the beginning of the year some 50,000 refugees are still in collective centres and specialized institutions. The majority are extremely vulnerable refugees who cannot afford to move out of the centres. A household survey organized in the second half of 1997 shows that these refugees continue to depend almost entirely on humanitarian assistance. Their average monthly income was reported to be twenty dollars. UNHCR therefore provided the centres with heating fuel for the 1997/1998 winter season. During 1998, the need to extend these programmes for the winter of 1998/1999 will be assessed. In addition, projects are being developed to support small-scale food production in those collective centres which can be given access to land.

(c) Implementing partners/arrangements

65. In 1998, UNHCR plans to sign agreements and organize the overall refugee assistance programme through 20 operational partners, including six local NGOs and government institutions, as well as two refugee groups. A list of the 18 partners by activity and location, with which agreements have already been signed, is attached as Annex 4. In addition, UNHCR implements a number of activities directly, such as the procurement of hygienic items.

(d) Budget

66. A description of UNHCR's planning assumptions and budget for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia can be found in the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for the region issued in November 1997 (see also Annex 1).

(e) Post situation

67. Since mid-1997, UNHCR has consolidated its presence in Serbia and Montenegro. In addition to Belgrade and Podgorica, there are offices in Kraljevo, Pristina and Novi Sad. There are currently 107 posts (107 workyears) as compared to 103 posts (103.8 workyears) in 1997.

(f) Implementation of policy priorities (women, children, elderly)

68. Vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly, are the main beneficiary groups of the in-kind humanitarian assistance that continues to be distributed. Special needs of the most vulnerable women are being addressed. A special effort is being made to enable women to benefit from all programmes, including income-generation and skills training activities.

69. Where resources are limited or inadequate to meet the needs of all vulnerable refugees, priority is given to the needs of women, children and elderly. Community services projects are operational throughout the country. A programme to provide psycho-social counselling to the elderly and to children through their teachers has been developed.

70. General medical advocacy to support refugees' access to the national health system and, where necessary, individual support to the most needy elderly refugees, is also part of the 1998 assistance programme.

71. Recreational and educational activities are organized for children in collective centres. A programme to ensure that the best durable solution is sought for separated children also continues. Solutions for some difficult cases, including disabled refugee children who have lost both parents or have been abandoned, remain to be identified.

(g) Oversight reports

72. An internal audit was carried out in April 1997. Recommendations have been shared with partners, as appropriate, and their implementation is being monitored by UNHCR project control and finance staff.

(Note: Tabular annexes not included in this online version. See your nearest UN Depository Library.)