Each day, under the rationale of reconstructing their homes, Klisa is visited by 8-13 Bosniacs. The work is going very slowly. Indeed, the cleaning of these homes appears to be pointless as many of them were destroyed and it is not possible to refurbish them. The local populace believes that these visits are merely demonstrations and have the characteristics of a demonstration.
The same applies to the Bosniac cemetery in Kozluk. During visits, hardly anyone comes into the cemetery area. SFOR commits substantial resources to protect these ceremonies yet, according to police reports, some of the people who come for house visits have never lived in the area. Serbs contend that house monitoring is not the primary purpose of these visits. It is possible that Serbs engage in such activities also, so I hope you can see that this judgment is not based upon any preconceptions.
Today, the problem of refugees includes a large of persons living with their relatives or with other families, sometimes two or three families to a house. This year the RS government is planning to close collective centers and provide new homes for refugees. There is some amount of money available for this purpose. The Mayor of Bijeljina asked Mr. Westendorp for cooperation in building homes for Serb refugees who currently live in Bosniac homes (Velika Obarska project). Local authorities believe that this project is more practical than the two-way return process that the International Community is insisting upon. They contend that people should not concentrate on two-way returns but instead sell or exchange homes. However, Mr. Westendorp’s reply to Bijeljina officials indicates that this proposal is against the principle of two-way returns of refugees. This position says to Serbs that they should return to their homes in Sarajevo and other areas of BiH. As a result, the Velika Obarska project is progressing too slowly with too little money.
As you can see, there are many obstacles to refugee returns, but we are working in close cooperation with our American partners to move from talking to doing on solving this problem.
Allow me to list the main provisions to which we should pay attention in supporting the returns process: We should inform every refugee that he (she) has the right:
- to return to his (her) location
- if he (she) does not wish to return, it is possible to sell or exchange the property
- under the Dayton Agreement, no one can order a refugee to return to his (her) location
- every one has the right to reclaim the property which he left during the war
- if a refugee decides not to return, he should vacate the property belonging to other people and the local government assist him in finding a new place to live.
- Serbs who vacate the homes of returning Bosniacs should receive land and money for building homes of their own. The order of precedence for property allocation should be determined by local law. We should provide these activities in the Federation area also. Refugees making house visits and reconstruction activities should come in small groups by different routes
The process of return can’t be turned back because it is under the control of the International Community. In my presentation, I explained the opinion of the commanding officers of the Russian Separate Airborne Brigade on the main problems concerning returns.
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