Serbia currently hosts over 260K refugees and IDPs

BELGRADE -- Serbia is still a country with the greatest number of refugees in Europe 21 years after the start of the wars that saw the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

The news conference in Belgrade on Thursday (Beta)
The news conference in Belgrade on Thursday (Beta)

At the moment there are 57,000 persons in Serbia with a refugee status, it was stated at Thursday's press conference on the occasion of World Refugee Day.

“These are mainly people from Croatia, whose number exceeds 41,000, and Bosnia-Herzegovina - 15,300 of them,” said Svetlana Velimirović, deputy commissioner for refugees and migrations of the Republic of Serbia, adding that there are also 210,000 internally displaced persons from Kosovo andMetohija.

She said that around 250,000 persons, who once had the status of refugees, have in the meantime taken Serbian citizenship.

“The researches that we have conducted with the High Commission for Refugees and the International Refugee Organization show that 95 percent want to stay in Serbia and get integrated here, while only five percent want to return to their previous places of residence,” Velimirović said, adding that so far 70,000 persons have returned to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Velimirović said that in the coming three years the remaining 18 collective centers in Serbia are planned to be closed, except for 11 centers in Kosovo and Metohija, with support of the EU, which have granted funds for this purpose.

Luca Bianconi, first secretary and head of the political sector of the EU Delegation in Serbia, said that the EU is the greatest donor for the solution of the refugee issues in the world, and in Serbia as well, and that it has donated EUR 230 million for the regional housing program.

Aside from the financial help, we are ready to offer political assistance in the search for sustainable solutions, Bianconi said.

According to the annual report of the UNHCR, today there are more refugees and internally displaced persons in the world than ever since 1994, it was stated at the conference.

The number of persons who were expelled from homes during wars and persecution is on the rise, and in 2012 it went up from 43 million to more than 45 million in 2013, stated Anne Birgitte Hansen of the UNHCR.

She said that Afghanistan is still a country which is a source of the greatest number of refugees, followed by Iraq and Syria, while Pakistan received the greatest number of refugees - 1.6 million, Iraq around a million and Germany around half a million.