Focusing on the plights of those still living in collective centres

Sixteen years after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina some 8600 people – mainly Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) – still live in collective centres scattered throughout the country, where basic living conditions remain extremely difficult. "This is a situation that must be resolved" Director for the Western Balkans at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enlargement, Pierre Mirel, and UNHCR BiH Representative, Andrew Mayne, stressed when they visited collective centres in East Sarajevo and Gladno Polje near  Rakovica  on 14 November.

"It is unacceptable that people are still living in these conditions,” Mirel said. “We will definitely continue to pressure the local authorities to take action through local and regional projects that provide better living conditions for these people.",

Residents of the collective centres live in poverty and face many problems –poor and mostly inadequate accommodation, limited employment prospects, limited access to healthcare and to social security.  Support provided by the local authorities is, in most cases, insufficient.

C. (name removed to protect her identity) is a woman who lives in the collective centre in East Sarajevo. She occupies two rooms with four more family members, two of them children. Her daughter is unemployed. The whole family survives on less than 400 KM per month which is not enough to provide for food and pay the bills. Their pre-war home in Trnovo was completely destroyed and has not been rebuilt.

K. from Gacko lives in similar conditions. He is 75 percent invalid and his four-member family (including two young children) lives on 230 KM disability benefit in a house where the roof leaks.

The collective centre visit comes within the context of a continuing joint effort with the BiH authorities to find durable solutions for refugees and IDPs and other vulnerable citizens living in these centres, Mayne said.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro have all formally agreed to address this issue at the Ministerial Conference in Belgrade on 7 November. At this conference a Joint regional Programme for providing durable solutions for 75,000 people was agreed for a cost of around 500 million Euros. In parallel, the BiH authorities are working on a loan application to the Council of Europe Development Bank. The two projects, taken together, should lead to durable housing solutions for the most vulnerable IDPs, refugees and returnees in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The BiH government will host an international donor conference in Sarajevo in April next year with support of the EU and UNHCR and the countries of the region to collect grants for that aim” Mirel explained. "In the meantime, detailed preparation for that conference has started so that, soon after, construction of permanent accommodations can begin".