By 1st Lt. Luis Sanchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#117, July 11, 2001
June 27, ambassadors from 22 countries assisting
the return process, visited several key return sites. The delegation
led by DCOMSFOR Major General François de Goësbriand,
looked round Mostar and Visegrad resettlements. Senior representatives
of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) along with several BiH
authorities accompanied the delegations.
Mostar - The return of Displaced Persons and Refugees
(DPRE) has a political and humanitarian dimension, which is vital
in the reconstruction and consolidation of a normal society in
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Last year about 65,000 returnees came
back to their previous pre-war homes.
Annex 7 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) declares
the right of those people to return freely to their homes of origin.
SFOR must assist the international organisations and provided
the means to perform a journey across the whole Theatre. This
was the fourth such tour, the first took place in Sept 13, 1999.
delegation visiting the resettlements in Multinational Division
south-east (MND-SE) was composed of six ambassadors from donors
countries (the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Italy,
Japan, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Republic of Slovenia
and the Kingdom of Spain), UNHCR and OHR representatives, included
the Deputy High Representative of the Reconstruction and Return
Task Force (RTF) Jayson Taylor, who directed the group. Also the
Republika Srpska (RS) Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons
and the Federation Ministry of Social Affairs, Displaced Persons
and Refugees joined the group. The delegation, headed by DCOMSFOR,
had the opportunity to witness at first hand the progress made
and find out the difficulties and challenges in the process, as
well as the Property Law Implementation Plan (PLIP), (see
SFOR Informer #116).
"It is necessary to show the close co-operation between the
International Community, specially OHR, UNHCR, and SFOR. Participation
within the GFAP is from a military aspect, but at the same time
there are many problems to solve, especially concerning DPRE's,
and SFOR's presence is quite necessary" said de Goësbriand.
At 11:10 in the morning, one German CH-53 helicopter took off
from Camp Butmir to Mostar Airport, where the International Military
Police (Italian Carabineri, French Gendarmerie and Spanish Guardia
Civil) set up a safety cordon. In addition the Spanish Battle
Group was deployed, one Calvary Reconnaissance Vehicle (VEC) was
posted at every junction of Mostar, in order to prevent any incident.
Authorities travelled by bus to the Mostar Central Zone where
Santica Street is situated. This old residential area on the banks
of Neretva River, which was totally destroyed during the war,
was the very centre of the confrontation line. The remains of
the buildings stand as witness of the war. Within the debris,
through the European Union, the Danish Refugee Council has rebuilt
two apartments blocks, where 30 families (B-Croats, B-Serbs and
Bosniacs) live in their pre-war homes. After an explanation of
the project, visitors could talk to returnees and visit their
homes, taking notice of the situation. There are plans to rebuild
more homes very soon and funds are needed.
"With everybody's efforts, that is to say the BiH Government,
the International Community, International Organisations, Non-Governmental
Organisations and SFOR, it is possible to set up the return environment.
It is not the task of only one organisation," said the Ambassador
ad interim of the Kingdom of Spain Diego Ruiz Alonso, a representative
of one of the donor countries. "The SFOR role is very important,
it is deployed over the field and knows at first hand the most
important necessities and priorities. The IC have noticed a lot
of problems thanks to SFOR, all this contributes to building a
better environment" continued Ruiz.
Without a break, the ambassadors went to visit the "South
Camp" Collective Centre consisting of 28 containers, where
23 Bosniac families live in dreadful conditions, lacking the minimum
standard for human housing. Presented as a Collective Centre (CC)
example, visitors could walk throughout the camp, checking the
appalling conditions for themselves. Displaced people have been
living there since 1994, waiting for a better place, their houses
being either occupied or destroyed.
next stop was the Gornja Crnca resettlement, in Visegrad Municipality,
a city in Eastern RS. There, the Italian Company based in Rogatica
provided security to the commission. The returnees' families,
mainly elderly, live in collaboration and in community spirit.
They share limited resources, living in collective accommodation.
Up to 40 persons in the same house, of about 100 square metres.
In the middle of the yard, authorities gave speeches, firstly
the UNHCR representative about the situation in Visegrad area,
which has a symbolic value in conjunction with the PLIP. He stressed
the increase in the number of returnees; this year figures have
reached 100 percent increase over the same period last year. UNHCR
is trying to guarantee at least community accommodation while
awaiting proper reconstruction of the houses. He also commented
on the co-operation with the local police, the support of SFOR
in de-mining and cleaning rubble, and showed gratitude to the
donors while insisting on more funds being needed to continue
Then, The RS Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons, Mico
Micic, said that the priorities of the RS government were to
provide better conditions to Returnees, co-operation with the
Federal government, the construction of CC as alternative accommodation
and the PLIP implementation. His Ministry is about to agree
to a contract with a firm to build several CCs, but the lack of
material and financial support is the main obstacle. Finally,
the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Displaced Persons and
Refugees, Sefer Halilovic, complimented local authorities, highlighting
that the returnees were totally safe there; the goal of his visit
was to encourage returnees whatever their religion or "ethnic"
groups were. He also insisted on the establishment of a "multi-ethnic"
police force as one condition to return, spoke about Federation
Plans to set up 12 regional centres to support DPRE's, and the
holding of a conference on Saturday, June 30, in order to establish
links and get more funds for this purpose.
The International Police Task Force (IPTF) commented that the
security situation has improved and local police are performing
a professional job. In addition they usually visit the sites in
co-ordination with UNHCR.
After the visit the groups returned to Camp Butmir, with more
knowledge about the return process.
Related links: Humanitarian
Aid, SFOR at