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500,000 Displaced People In Need

UN Agency Calls On Balkan Countries To Assist Over 500,000 Displaced People

New York, Sep 19 2006 7:00PM

Governments in the Balkans should speedily implement a pact signed last year dealing with the return more than 500,000 displaced people to their homes, the United Nations refugee agency urged today, saying much more needed to be done if a December deadline is to be met.

The call by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) came in a joint statement with the European Commission (EC) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that asked Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia to make more progress in implementing the Sarajevo Declaration.

Under this Declaration, the four countries agreed to resolve the plight of over half a million people – almost 120,000 refugees and some 407,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) – who remain uprooted in the region after fleeing their homes to escape fighting in the Balkans in the 1990s.

According to the agreement, the four countries should have finalised a comprehensive road map for returns and contributed to a joint implementation programme by the end of the year, the UNHCR said in a press release.

UNHCR was designated the lead humanitarian agency in the emergency that followed the 1991 break-up of Yugoslavia and subsequent wars between former member states. The Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 gave it the pivotal role in helping some 2.2 million uprooted people return to their homes and rebuild their lives.

The Sarajevo Declaration was the first refugee-related initiative adopted by the governments of the region. They agreed to try and end the outstanding humanitarian challenges by allowing voluntary returns or local integration.

Ends

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