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Refugee Reconnaissance Returns Teams (RRRT)

by Capt. Juan Vizuete
First published in SFOR Informer #56, March 3, 1999.

Sarajevo - In the Bosnian capital there is a group of U.S. Marines working in support of the multinational Civil Military Co-operation Refugee Reconnaissance Returns Teams (RRRT), a specially trained group that carries out civil assessment. Established September 23, 1998, this group was set up to deploy teams anywhere in Bosnia and Hercegovina to conduct civil assessments where response may be necessitated by the unexpected return of refugees or displaced people, developing humanitarian crises or other problematic situations. In addition they update municipal information reports and prepare assessments of priority communities.

They can deploy two teams on the ground, composed of two non-commissioned officers and one interpreter, to gather all the required information. "We visit officials and other people and give them questionnaires on different areas of interest. Once they have completed them, we pick them up and analyse the information and produce the MIR (Municipal Information Reports)," said SSgt. Addison Fair, member of Brown Team. The MIRs cover a wide range of subjects: population structure and attitudes towards the integration of returnees; security aspects such as incidents, mines or other dangers; the housing situation and rebuilding programs; infrastructure; employment and economy; public institutions such as schools, medical care or transport; ending with a list of official and private contact addresses. So far they have produced reports on Kupres, Olovo, Tomislavgrad, Trnovo and Vitez, and they are working on another three.

Besides writing MIRs they can support CIMIC functional teams in planning and execution on projects or providing them force protection, if required. They are also major contributors to the Repatriation Information Centre (RIC) database. The RIC was established in Sarajevo after an exchange of letters between United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), SFOR and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), an international organization which has its headquarters in Vienna. The RIC has been materially and logistically supported by SFOR since its inception in the spring of 1997. The ICMPD/RIC has been supported by funds through a consortium comprising of UNHCR, SFOR and interested host countries since July 1998.

"SFOR's primary mission is to provide a safe and secure environment in Bosnia. Civil assessment provides critical information supporting the peaceful return of refugees and displaced people to their pre-war homes," said Maj. Michael Lawrence. Officer-in-Charge of the RRRTs. "The information we provide is useful to SFOR, to international organizations and to individual families to make the decision whether to return home," Lawrence continued. The MRIs are aimed to refugees and displaced persons and to official and non government agencies who are making plans to support reconstruction projects.

"During my interviews with the officials I sometimes have to tell them 'I'm sorry, but I can't provide you with funds. I'm just collecting data to help people who want to help you,' because usually, at some point, they begin to tell me how they would invest our money," said Fair.

The information produced by RRT is available on the Internet through the Repatriation Information Centre's (RIC) web site at http://www.ric.com.