Croatia: Housing rights and employment still preventing durable solutions
An IDP returnee in front of his destroyed house in Knin, 1997. Some 2,400 IDPs in Croatia are still unable to return to their place of origin (Photo: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein, 1997).
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31 December 2010
At the end of the 1991-1995 war, 250,000 people were internally displaced within Croatia, including 32,000 ethnic Serbs. Since then almost all the ethnic Croat IDPs have returned to their homes, while most of the ethnic Serbs displaced have resettled in Serbia or in the majority-Serb Danube region of Croatia. In 2010, 2,300 people remained internally displaced in the country, 1,600 of them ethnic Serbs.
The number of IDPs decreased by an average of 4,500 per year between 2002 and 2005, but only by a few hundred a year from then on. Only a few state-run collective centres for IDPs remained open in 2010.
The main obstacles to the return of the remaining ethnic Croat IDPs were the limited social services and livelihood opportunities in their places of origin, whereas ethnic Serb IDPs continued to struggle to assert their rights. It is estimated that only half of ethnic Serb returns have proved sustainable, because perpetrators of violence have not been punished, their rights over their original homes have not been recognised, or they have been unable to re-establish livelihoods or receive full pension entitlements.
Successive governments have made progress in the response to displacement. They have adopted legislation ensuring the participation of minorities, restitution of private property and reconstruction of destroyed homes. Almost 150,000 housing units have been rebuilt since 1995, while over 19,000 occupied housing units have been repossessed and returned to their owners. In 2010, a large increase in the social housing budget and a new action plan drawn up with international partners highlighted the government’s resolve to address the outstanding housing needs of all communities.
The EU, the Council of Europe and its Commissioner for Human Rights, and the RSG on IDPs have commended the government but have urged greater efforts. In March 2010, the government committed to continue this effort at a regional conference on durable solutions for refugees and IDPs.
The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Croatia has fallen significantly since the armed conflict between the Croat majority and the Serb minority ended in 1995. At the end of the war, around 250,000 people were displaced within Croatia, of whom 32,000 were Croatian Serbs. By June 2009, the number of IDPs had fallen to about 2,400, includ-ing over 1,600 ethnic Serbs.
The outcome for the two groups of IDPs has been quite different. In 1995, there were three times more Croat IDPs than Croatian Serb IDPs, but by 2009 the situation has been re-versed with twice as many Croatian Serbs as Croats still displaced. As of June 2009, over 220,000 Croat IDPs and some 23,000 Serb IDPs had returned. However almost half of Serb returns to and within Croatia are not sustainable, according to international organisations and NGOs. For the remaining Croat IDPs, the main obstacle to return is the poor economic situation in return areas, whereas ethnic Serb IDPs also face continuing discrimination in accessing housing, property and employment.
Although successive governments have made significant progress since 2000 in reforming and adopting laws to support the return of ethnic Serb IDPs, their implementation has been slow due to their complexity and the discriminatory attitude of administrative bodies. One continuing barrier has been the absence of a remedy for the arbitrary cancellation of ten-ancy rights for former occupiers of socially-owned apartments; this has mainly affected ethnic Serbs. Alternative housing options have been made available to those who wish to return, but others have been left without any durable housing solutions or compensation for the loss of their tenancy right.
Over the past three years the number of IDPs in Croatia has remained steady, indicating that the remaining few have been unable to resolve their status by returning to their place of origin or integrating locally. To enable them to find durable solutions it would be necessary to combine economic support to the most vulnerable, fair compensation for former holders of occupancy rights, and an effective monitoring system to ensure minority rights are up-held. (...)
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1st September 2009
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Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background","General"
"Population Figures and Profile","Global figures","Disaggregated data"
"Patterns of Displacement","General"
"Physical Security & Freedom of Movement","General"
"Subsistence Needs","Access to utilities","Shelter","Vulnerable groups"
"Subsistence Needs","Access to utilities","Shelter","Vulnerable groups","Health"
"Access to Education","General","Obstacles to education"
"Issues of Self-Reliance and Public Participation","Self-reliance","Participation"
"Documentation Needs and Citizenship","Documentation","Legal status of minorities","Citizenship"
"Issues of Family Unity, Identity and Culture","General"
"Property Issues","General","Law and policy","Restitution of private property","Socially-owned apartments","Reconstruction"
"Patterns of Return and Resettlement","General","Return movements","Policy","Obstacles to return and resettlement"
"National and International Responses","National response","International response","Policy and recommendations","Reference to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- UNHCR Statistical Report December 2011, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), December 2011
- Access to free legal aid for displaced persons in the Western Balkans countries; Overview of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Group 484, November 2011
- Croatia 2011 Progress Report, European Commission, 12 October 2011
- Forced displacement in Europe and Central Asia, WB, October 2011
- Challenges of Forced Migration in Serbia, ESCoM, June 2011
- Should I stay or should I go? A review of UNHCR’s response to the protracted refugee situation in Serbia and Croatia, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 15 December 2010
- Joint Plan of Activities for Solving Issues of Refugees and Displaced Persons, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), November 2006
- Access to the Rights in Croatia, civil rights project, drafted by Ankica Gorkic, Stability Pact, MARRI-Danish Refugee Council, 30 June 2005
- Erdut agreement, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), 12 November 1995
- The regional housing programme, Council of Europe Development Bank, May 2012
- Joint Regional Programme on Durable Solutions for Refugees and Displaced Persons, Governments of Republic of Serbia, Republic of Croatia, Bosnian Hercegovina, and Montenegro, November 2011