Repatriation of Roma to Bosnia-Herzegovina

05 January 1999

Romani returnees to Bosnia-Herzegovina are faced with the impossibility of reclaiming the ownership of their houses and real estate, claims the Sarajevo-based Centre for Protection of Minorities' Rights. While many Roma have to pay high rents for inadequate temporary accommodation, the new "owners" of their property in some cases use the expropriated Romani houses for keeping cattle and storing firewood. In Bijeljina, the eastern part of the Republika Srpska entity, the Centre reported a case of a local Rom who voluntarily returned from Germany — only to find that the two large houses which he owned before the war were occupied by others; he is now forced to live in one expensive rented room with his ten-member family. If they attempt to claim their property back, Romanies are often faced with a lack of understanding on the part of state representatives, and, in extreme cases, blackmail and threats coming from individuals, reports the Centre. On July 5, 1998, a bomb was thrown into the house of Mr Mehmed Klepić, a local Rom also returned from Germany, in Zavidovići, north-eastern Bosnia. Although there were no casualties and no significant material damage, the act itself caused much fear in the local Romani community. The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina reported that the police responded immediately, and the perpetrator was detained and is now under investigation.

Despite evidence of hardships they would probably face in their country of origin, Bosnians, among them Bosnian Roma, have come under heavy pressure to leave Germany. The new federal government has so far continued, former chancellor Kohl's repatriation policy. On October 16, 1998, Ms S. Omerović, a 23-year-old Romani woman from Bijeljina, now in Republika Srpska, received orders to leave Germany with her three children within three days, or face deportation. Ms Omerovic has been in Germany since fleeing her home with her husband in 1991. Their three children were all born in Germany. The case of Ms Omerović highlights the gap between the rhetoric surrounding the expulsion of Bosnians from Germany and reality. People in her position are unlikely, when repatriated, to start helping "build a new Bosnia", as one German politician wished; they and their children would have serious problems surviving at all. (Center for Protection of Minorities' Rights, ERRC, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina)


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