GA/SHC/3935 Sixty-third General Assembly
Third Committee
37th Meeting (AM)

5 November 2008

(extracts)

Presenting a view of the refugee situation in Europe, Serbia’s representative said his country was housing up to half a million refugees and displaced persons, comprising 5 per cent of the total population. Some 209,000 internally displaced were from Kosovo and Metohija, which was under interim United Nations administration. Serbia made every effort to make sure the internally displaced were provided a decent life, but it was an international responsibility to ensure full implementation of Security Council resolution 1244, which contained a key provision on the creation of conditions for a safe return. A lack of progress on that issue meant that only a few thousand had been able to return.

Slavko Kruljevic ( Serbia) said the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons was “very much present” in his country and, for that reason, the Government had assigned significant financial resources, including those made available through international support. “That support was highly appreciated and, unfortunately, still very much needed”, he added. Further, the United Nations refugee office had listed Serbia in the group of five countries with a protracted refugee situation, and had pledged its support to Serbia accordingly. There were 98,000 registered refugees in Serbia, but if the count was expanded to include those who had received Serbian citizenship, but not had their “rights fully reinstated in the countries of origin”, that number rose to 300,000.

With more than 209,000 internally displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija, the Serbian province under interim United Nations administration, the number stood at half a million, or more than 5 per cent of the country’s total population, he added. Further, 8,200 people were living in “collective centres”, and some of them had been living in such places for more than 15 years. The situation of the 40,000-strong Roma community was “extremely difficult”, since they lived in temporary settlements without basic conditions for normal life.

He said that, in terms of assistance provided to refugees and internally displaced persons by his Government, it had sought to provide two options: to make it possible for them to return home; or to integrate locally. Voluntary return was thought to be the best, durable solution. Serbia staunchly advocated the implementation of the Sarajevo Declaration as a way of addressing those issues at the regional level and, for that reason, strongly believed that returnees had all their rights restituted in countries of origin — including the rights to occupancy, tenancy, property, labour or pension — or were compensated. Most signatory States had met their obligations, but some had not, which had accounted for a delay in the Sarajevo process.

Serbia had made every effort to make sure that internally displaced persons were provided a decent life, he said. But, it was a duty of the international presence in the area to ensure full implementation of Security Council resolution 1244, of which one of the key provisions was the creation of conditions for a safe return. The return of only a few thousand was due to a lack of progress in that field and, indeed, it had been estimated that only 17,000 internally displaced persons out of nearly an estimated 230,000 had returned to Kosovo. Also, Serbia was hampered by considerable financial strictures, being a country of transition. For that reason, assistance from the international community was considered indispensable.

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