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 ten facts about the Bosnia and Herzegovina refugees who fled from this crisis.
- 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.
- 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 12,000 residents were killed in Sarajevo during the course of the conflict.
- 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 percent during this period.
- 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.
- 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 twenty years.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- In November 2016, Open Democracy highlighted that more than one million refugees were choosing to return home after twenty years of life 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.
- 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