Serbia: Integration stalled
An internally displaced family in Kraljevo built this home with materials it received in kind from UNHCR. This new housing helps them integrate in the area they were displaced to. (Photo: UNHCR, 2011)
- Country Statistics
- Latest IDP figure:
- About 225,000
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- Number of refugees:
- (Originating from the country)
161,363 - including Kosovo (UNHCR, as of December 2011)
- Total Population:
- 9.9 million (including 2,1 million in Kosovo)
Download Europe Overview
31 December 2012
Following the 1999 NATO intervention in response to serious abuses against civilians by Kosovo Serb paramilitary groups and the Yugoslav army, an estimated 245,000 Kosovo Serbs and Roma, Ashkali or Egyptian (RAE) people were internally displaced within Kosovo and Serbia proper. There were around 210,000 registered IDPs in Serbia as of the end of 2012, according to the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees (SCR). The figures do not include an estimated 15,000 unregistered RAE IDPs.
Only around 18,000 IDPs have returned to Kosovo, around half of whom are ethnic Serbs. Obstacles to return include insecurity, ethnic discrimination, difficulties in repossessing property and recovering lost documents, restricted freedom of movement, the lack of economic prospects in return areas and limited means to rebuild houses. In June 2012 several people were injured during border clashes, and attacks on ethnic Serb returnees became more frequent during the year. The situation remained tense as of the end of 2012, with only around 600 IDPs having returned during the year.
Thirteen years after their displacement, a significant number of IDPs still face considerable hardship. UNHCR and SCR conducted a needs assessment survey in 2011 and found that around 97,000 IDPs were still in need of assistance. More than 39 per cent were found to be unemployed, 74 per cent were living below the poverty line and 31 per cent of the most vulnerable IDPs were female heads of household. Around 80 per cent of internally displaced families said they still needed help to secure permanent housing.
Around 13,000 IDPs continued to reside in substandard housing, according to the 2011 survey. This includes makeshift housing, informal settlements and collective centres.
As of November 2012 an estimated 1,725 IDPs were still living in 20 recognised collective centres excluding Kosovo and Metohija, many of which did not have adequate electricity, clean water or sewerage facilities. Eight collective centres were closed in 2012. Around 1,000 displaced RAE were thought to be living in informal settlements that lacked basic facilities.
The government and international organisations have provided IDPs with a range of housing assistance in recent years, including social housing, new housing, village dwellings and the distribution of construction materials. At the same time, between 2009 and mid-2012 there were 17 major evictions from informal settlements in Belgrade, which affected nearly 2,500 people, including IDPs. Safeguards required under international law were reportedly not fully upheld and it was not clear whether those evicted had secured adequate alternative housing.
Displaced RAE face deep-rooted discrimination and marginalisation, and they remain particularly disadvantaged as a result. They face complex procedures to prove their parentage, which they need to do when applying for personal documents, and the lack of such paperwork is a major obstacle to their registering as IDPs and accessing assistance, employment, education and social benefits. Almost 18 per cent of displaced RAE do not have identity cards or birth certificates, and widespread prejudice makes it difficult for Roma people in particular to obtain them without legal assistance.
The Serbian government initially promoted IDPs' return to their places of origin, but in recent years it has increasingly also supported local integration. It is conducting more projects to provide IDPs with permanent housing solutions, particularly for those still living in collective centres, and it has further developed its national policy on displacement. The National Strategy for Resolving the Situation of Refuges and Internally Displaced Persons 2011-2014 was, however, still to be implemented as of the end of 2012.
Announcing Serbia's EU candidate status in March 2012, Brussels highlighted the need to further address the situation of IDPs. The EU, OSCE and UNHCR also lent considerable support to the launching of a regional housing programme under the Sarajevo Process, which will seek to assist in the provision of adequate housing for refugees and a small number of IDPs in Serbia and other countries in the region. In April 2012, international donors pledged €261 million in support of the programme.
Against a backdrop of increasing tension and violent incidents affecting returnees to Kosovo during the year, the EU also called upon the Serb and Kosovo authorities to ensure implementation of their agreements to date. In December 2012, Belgrade and Pristina began to implement their agreement on border control. They also placed contentious issues such as municipal structures in northern Kosovo on their bilateral dialogue agenda, and leaders on both sides appeared prepared to compromise.
Serbia: Forced evictions of Roma IDPs continue
(9 December 2011)
A campaign of forced evictions by the authorities in Belgrade has continued into November. Between April and October, the city carried out
at least five forced evictions, mostly of Roma people in informal settlements. In November it has initiated the eviction of 27 Roma families living in New Belgrade. 20 of these families were
internally displaced from Kosovo to Serbia after the 1999 war.
According to an Amnesty International report
, evictions have been planned and carried out either without informing or without genuinely consulting with the affected families. Families have received no or insufficient notice and no information about their right to appeal against eviction. Moreover, they have not been provided with adequate alternative accommodation, but have often been forced onto the street without compensation for the loss or destruction of their personal property.
As of December 2011, Serbia hosts
approximately 210,000 IDPs from Kosovo. In March, a needs assessment survey revealed that around 97,000 IDPs were still
in need of assistance, particularly Roma IDPs. 75 per cent of this group were in need, but only 42 per cent of non-Roma IDPs.
Serbia / Kosovo: Protests against return of IDPs to north Kosovo
Serbs and EU police forces clashed
during a protest in Mitrovica against the return of ethnic Albanians to Kosovo’s north. At the centre of the tensions is the rebuilding of houses belonging to ethnic Albanians who fled during the 1999 war, in a town still highly polarised around the two communities. The protesters allegedly declared that the tensions
will cease only if Serbs are allowed to go back to the Albanian-run south. The EU law-enforcement mission has condemned
the violence and called for the rioters to be brought to justice as soon as possible. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.
NOTE: In 2008 Kosovo adopted a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) from Serbia. The United Nations General Assembly subsequently referred the UDI to the International Court of Justice, which issued a July 2010 advisory opinion affirming that it was “in accordance with international law.” As of November 2010, 72 countries had recognised Kosovo. Serbia has not recognised Kosovo, continuing to regard it as a United Nations-governed entity within its sovereign territory. For the purpose of this overview, references to the situation in “Serbia” since 2008 do not include Kosovo.
In 1999, over 245,000 members of local minority communities fled from or within Kosovo in fear of reprisals from the majority Albanian population after NATO air strikes had forced the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and ended years of oppression of ethnic Albanians.
As of December 2012, there were an estimated 225,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Kosovo within Serbia, including an estimated 15,000 displaced Roma who have never been registered as displaced. In addition, around 17,000 remain displaced within Kosovo.
One in five IDPs are from minority communities. Roma are the most vulnerable IDPs. They tend to lack documentation which then limits their access to basic services such as education, health and social security. They frequently endure extreme poverty in squalid informal settlements and have been subject to evictions. (...)
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12 March 2013
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Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background","Background","Causes of displacement","The ethnic minorities in Kosovo"
"Population Figures and Profile","Overview"
"Patterns of Displacement","Overview","Current displacement processes","Multiple displacement","Other factors"
"Physical Security & Freedom of Movement","Overview","Serbia (excluding Kosovo)","Kosovo"
"Access to Education","Overview","Serbia (excluding Kosovo)","Kosovo"
"Issues of Self-Reliance and Public Participation","Overview","Serbia (excluding Kosovo)","Kosovo"
"Documentation Needs and Citizenship","Overview","Serbia (excluding Kosovo)","Kosovo"
"Issues of Family Unity, Identity and Culture","General"
"Patterns of Return and Resettlement","Return movements","Return prospects","Return policy","Integration"
"National and International Responses","Overview","Reference to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- Serbia has 225,000 internally displaced persons, B92, 4 September 2012
- "Dealing with Kosovo difficult and honorable task", B92, 24 July 2012
- Foreign Ministers of Kosovo and Serbia have blamed each other's country for the tense ethnic relations in Kosovo., BalkanInsight, 15 May 2012
- Roma Eviction Sullies Belgrade’s Image, BalkanInsight, 7 May 2012
- The regional housing programme, Council of Europe Development Bank, May 2012
- Roma evicted from Belgrade shanty town, B92, 7 March 2012
- 74,000 refugees in Serbia, IDPs priority, B92, 4 January 2012
- 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
- 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
- Challenges of Forced Migration in Serbia, ESCoM, June 2011
- Serbia IDP Profiling Report, Serbia Commissariat for Refugees, and UNHCR in partnership with JIPS, March 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
- A survey of the needs of internally displaced persons in the Republic of Serbia has been conducted, Republic of Serbia Commissariat for Refugees, 18 November 2010
- The Condition and the Needs of Internally Displaced Persons in Collective Centres in the Republic of Serbia, Republic of Serbia, Commissariat for Refugees, 2010
- Migration Management Stategy, Government of the Republic of Serbia, 23 July 2009
- Implementation of the Comprehensive Settlement Proposal, International Civilian Office, 21 November 2008
- Revised Manual for Sustainable Return, UNMIK/PISG, July 2006
- Protocol on voluntary and sustainable return, UNMIK/PISG/Government of Serbia, 6 June 2006
- UN Security Council Resolution 1244 - S/RES/1244 (1999), United Nations Security Council (UN SC), 10 June 1999
Long-term housing solutions of IDPs in Europe
With a focus on Armenia, Georgia and Serbia, IDMC outlines some of the best practices adopted in these countries with regards to securing long-term housing solutions for IDPs.
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