Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UNHCR: The continuing struggle of Europe's forgotten refugees

IPANJ, Serbia, January 12 (UNHCR) – Miljo Miljic and his family live in a spartan apartment in the Serbian village of Ripanj. There are no family photos, no paintings, no book collection, no heirlooms – no possessions recalling their former lives in their hometown of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"We didn't take anything with us because we didn't have time. We had to run for our lives. The only thing that comes to mind in such a situation is to save your children and your own life," says Miljo. "You don't think about the photographs, you don't think about personal documents, clothes, whatever."

Miljo, his wife Milica, son Milutin and daughter Stanislava are refugees, forced to flee Tuzla in 1992. All they have as proof of their past and their identity is a refugee card. Their belongings were left behind as Miljo and his wife, clutching their then infant children, rushed to escape.

More than half-a-million civilians fled to Serbia from Bosnia and Herzegovina and from Croatia in the 1990s conflicts. Considerable success has been achieved on local integration, with over 200,000 former refugees now holding Serbian citizenship. But some 96,000 refugees remain – the remnants of Europe's largest protracted refugee situation. Many live in desperate conditions and face a bleak future. ....UNHCR

SerbBlog: It's worth noting that "More than half-a-million civilians fled TO Serbia" during the Bosnian & Croatian wars, not away from it.

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