Over the past 30 years, the Balkans have experienced levels of change and turmoil. The lack of stability in the region has resulted in high levels of poverty in the Balkans.

The Balkan Peninsula, or the Balkans, is a region in Eastern Europe with coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, and the Black Sea. The countries that make up the Balkans are Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Greece.

Not all of the countries in the peninsula are experiencing dramatic poverty problems. For instance, less than 10 percent of the population of Montenegro is in poverty. Overall, however, poverty in the Balkans expands to about one-fourth of the region’s population.

Albania has one of the lowest standards of living and the lowest per capita income in all of Europe. Twenty-five percent of its population lives on less than $2 per day.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, more than 15 percent of the population live in poverty. Croatia just broke through a recession that lasted until 2015. During the recession, the number of children in poverty rose by 50 percent. About one-fifth of Croatia’s population is considered poor.

Greece is in the middle of a longstanding economic crisis, on par with the Great Depression. During this time, jobs have dissipated and wages have decreased. Today, almost a quarter of Greece’s population is considered to be in conditions of severe deprivation.

Other regions experience their own financial difficulties. Kosovo was the poorest region of the former Yugoslavia, and declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Years of political instability have left 30 percent of Kosovans in poverty. In addition, one-third of the population of Macedonia lives at or below the poverty line. The country faces high unemployment rates. In Serbia, one-fourth of the population is poor, and some of its southern regions lack basic infrastructures and public services.

Despite all of the economic issues in the Balkans, there are certainly signs of optimism, specifically the crime rate. Usually, high levels of poverty coincide with an increase in crime. However, this is not the case in the Balkans, which are regarded as some of the safest countries in all of Europe. Most of the countries are simply lacking the resources necessary to provide for their people. Assistance on an international level is imperative to lift these states out of poverty.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Bosnia and Herzegovina Refugees
With the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Eastern Europe was impacted by a sudden wave of mass displacement and migration as a result of oppression. Bosnia and Herzegovina became embroiled in the Bosnian War in 1992. The consequences of the war were widespread and continue to have implications to this day, especially as the Balkan region is drawn into the migrant exodus in Europe.

In the scramble to obtain Bosnian territory, the careful balance of power collapsed. The Bosnian Serbs yearned for Bosnia to be a part of a Greater Serbia. Non-Serbs, such as the Bosnian Croats and Muslims, soon called for Bosnian independence. Ethnic relations soon spiraled out of control, especially after the siege of Sarajevo. In the push for a Greater Serbia, the President of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadzic, began ubiquitous ethnic cleansing campaigns. Here are 10 facts about the Bosnia and Herzegovina refugees who fled from this crisis.

  1. From 1989 to 1992, 2.3 million people fled their homes as a result of the collapse of the six republics of Yugoslavia, according to the UNHCR. Of this figure, 600,000 individuals came from the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Villages, towns and cities were destroyed during the war, and cases of rape were widespread, giving rise to a great exodus.
  2. The escalation of the conflict led to deficiencies in infrastructure, amenities and services between 1989 and 1992. Greater Serbia suffered extreme food shortages. An aggregate of 12,000 residents were killed in Sarajevo during the course of the conflict.
  3. Bosnian visa application skyrocketed in 1991. However, may were denied visas due to the magnitude of applications that were received. Applications in Belgrade shot up 60% during this period.
  4. In 1995, the Dayton Accords were finally signed, resulting in the split of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the Bosniak Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. This brought about a cessation of hostilities. NATO, the U.N. and the EU were key parties that helped the former Yugoslavia republics gain their regional footing.
  5. Moreover, in 1995, the UNHCR mobilized funds amounting to USD $458 million for resettlement and humanitarian assistance. With the integration of various governments in Europe and other bodies, the UNHCR is helping refugees return home after 20 years.
  6. In the same year, 1995, more than 130,000 Bosnia and Herzegovina refugees were successfully resettled in the United States. A majority of them live in Chicago and Missouri. This was one of the most successful and significant examples of mass emigration and resettlement of the time.
  7. In the year 2015, the UNHCR and the EU helped execute a revised strategy of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The move is currently yielding good results with regards to human rights, social protection, housing and the status of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
  8. In March of 2016, Radovan Karadzic was finally convicted of crimes against humanity for his role in the persecution of 7,500 Muslim Bosniaks in the Srebrenica enclave along with the oppression of ethnic groups. He had previously spent 13 years in hiding before facing the U.N. International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
  9. In November of 2016, Open Democracy highlighted that more than one million refugees were choosing to return home after twenty years of living abroad. With a majority Muslim population of 27,000, the town of Kozarac is the heart of the resettlement process. The town is still currently in transition as people try to reinvent their lives.
  10. On Oct. 14, 2016, photojournalist Miquel Ruiz showcased 24 images of the genocide in Sarajevo as a memorial to Bosnia’s tumultuous past. The photos included life during the siege, refugee camps and the remains of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre in 1995.

The combined effects of political turmoil, poverty, displacement and resource shortages plagued the lives of Bosnia and Herzegovina refugees, and they have continued to be affected to this day.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

 Bosnian War
Between the years of 1991 and 1992, the country of Yugoslavia suffered mass chaos as nationalism in six different regions of the country began to surge. This was due in large part to growing perceptions of ethnic distinctions and a faltering economy. This time gave rise to intense violence and ethnic cleansing throughout the region, resulting in the Bosnian War. Here are five things to know about the Bosnian War:

    1. On March 3, 1992, Bosnia (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) declared its independence from Yugoslavia, following in the footsteps of neighboring Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia from the previous year. The official beginning of the Bosnian War is typically marked as April 6, 1992, when Bosnian Serb forces invaded the capital of Sarajevo.
    2. Three primary ethnic groups were embroiled in the conflict: the Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims who comprised more than 44% of the population; the Bosnian Serbs, who predominately practiced Eastern Orthodox Christianity (31% of the population) and Bosnian Croats, a Catholic minority who comprised 17% of Bosnia’s populace at the time.
    3. Reelected to the Serbian presidency in 1992, Slobodan Milošević encouraged rising nationalist sentiments within the region and backed the attacks on Sarajevo, as well as the siege on Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. Serbian forces invaded the town, which had previously been designated a safe haven by the U.N., and separated the Muslim Bosniaks from the rest of the population. The women and girls — many of them raped and sexually assaulted — were bussed to nearby villages, while the remaining 8,000 Muslims were murdered and left in mass graves.
    4. By the end of 1993, Bosnian Serbs controlled 70% of the country, and most Bosnian Croats had fled. The term “ethnic cleansing” arose, a painful euphemism for the thousands that had been expelled, tortured, raped and murdered at the hands of Serbian forces. Many were forced into concentration camps, while vestiges of Bosniak culture, including places of worship and sites of cultural importance, were destroyed.
    5. In May 1993, the U.N. created the first war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946, which indicted Nazi officials for crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) charged more than 160 individuals for their participation in the violence, including Slobodan Milošević, who was tried and convicted in 2002 of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He was found dead in his prison cell in The Hague in 2006 following a heart attack.

From 1992 to 1995, the Bosnian War claimed the lives of roughly 100,000 people, 80% of whom were Bosniak — the worst act of genocide since the Holocaust. To date, almost 120,000 of the original 2.2 million people displaced by the conflict still live in bleak conditions in refugee centers far from their homes.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr