Refugees can never go home, says UN

Former Yugoslavia: Two unreleased reports show that the goals of the Dayton peace agreement look increasingly untenable

Nine months after the Dayton peace accords, the United Nations has given up returning all Bosnian refugees to their homes, and accepted an "ethnically cleansed" Bosnia.

An unpublished report, obtained by the Independent, reveals that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has decided drastically to scale down the number of refugees it will help. In a surrender to the reality on the ground, the UNHCR says it will no longer attempt to return Bosnian refugees to areas where they would be a minority.

The report states that only refugees returning to areas where they would be in the majority can except UN assistance, and it highlights 19 "priority" areas.

More than 2.4 million refugees fled Bosnia during the war and hundreds of thousands of Bosnians are "displaced" inside the country. As recently as March the UNHCR's objective was to return 870,000 this year. Now that target has been reduced to 135,000.

The immediate effect will be that many of these people - Muslims, Croats and Bosnian Serbs - will never be able to return home. For example, the Muslim women who fled the Srebrenica massacre last July now know that they will receive no UN help should they wish to return to the town which now has a Serb majority. Only six days ago the international community pledged "never to forget" the women of Srebrenica.

The policy change is certain to further undermine the credibility of the United Nations in Bosnia, where it will face accusations that it is not only accepting the de facto ethnic division of Bosnia, but making the UN a party to the process.

The UNHCR report constitutes another nail in the coffin of the Dayton peace accord. Dayton envisaged a multi- ethnic Bosnia, in which freedom of movement would be secured for all ethnic groups. It aimed to create a climate in which all refugees would feel secure enough to return to their areas.

The international community was insistent that peace in Bosnia would not mean victory for "ethnic cleansing".

In the report, entitled "Priority areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina for reconstruction and return of displaced persons and refugees", the UN accepts that the return of refugees has "proceeded more slowly than was hoped for". Only 70,000 have returned to their homes since Dayton "and to date virtually no returns to minority areas have taken place."

The reports cites "freedom of movement and security concerns" as the main reason. This is an acknowledgement of the failure of the American- led I-For force, which is responsible for the military aspects of the peace deal, to get rid of road blocks and stop the use of threats and intimidation, which prevent refugees returning to areas where they are a minority.

The report says the reconstruction effort in Bosnia has been so limited that it is impossible for most refugees to even consider returning, and the UNHCR calls for an extra $160m (pounds 103m) in aid, in addition to the $6bn already agreed for reconstruction. New infrastructure built so far meets only a "small portion" of refugees' needs, the UNHCR says. The UN's decision to rationalise its refugee effort may partly be due to pressure from Germany to speed up the return of more than 320,000 Bosnian refugees still on German soil. Germany, which received more Bosnian refugees than any other country, has been exerting mounting pressure on the UN to find ways of removing them.

On Monday, Bonn presented its own list of "priority areas" for return to a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. But, in another sign of discord in the West over Bosnia, the German "priority areas" were totally different from the UN "priority areas".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world