Serbia's refugee population largest in Europe

BELGRADE -- Officials say eight years after the end of last Balkan war, there is no major success in return of refugees.

Minister for Labor and Social Policy Rasim Ljajić said in Belgrade Monday that all regional states carry the responsibility for the absence of any major breakthrough in bids to bring refugees back to their homes.

But he added that "a great part of this responsibility also rests with the international community."

Ljajić was opening a conference on local integration of refugees in Serbia when he made the remarks.

The conference is organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Belgrade Mission in partnership with the UNHCR.

Ljajić also stressed that Serbia still has the record number of refugees in Europe. In addition to the 97,000 officially registered refugee, there are also 500,000 people in Serbia "facing hardships linked to refugee status."

"The government and the Commissariat for Refugees have done everything possible in the area of legislature, especially in the past few years," Ljajić said.

He singled out the adoption of the law on refugees and the strategy for resolving the issue.

"There should not be only talk about local integration, there should also primarily be insistence on return as the most important solution to the question of refugees," Ljajić was quoted.

Refugees should not be deprived of hope, he said, and added not only integration, but also realization of their rights in the countries of origin should be put on the agenda.