Serbia + 1 more

Refugees in Serbia continue integration struggle

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Belgrade_(dpa) _ A decade after the Yugoslav wars, many of the hundreds of thousands of refugees in Serbia still continue to live in the hardship of camps and temporary housing.

Latest statistics say that refugees make up 7 per cent of Serbia's population.

Many of the refugees' homes have either been destroyed or remain inaccessible to them. Problems relate to dubious ownership, residence and work permits, while pensions and red tape further aggravate the problems of refugees who can neither return, nor integrate in Serbia.

Most of the refugees from former Yugoslav republics settled in and around Belgrade, though many of the displaced from Kosovo were sheltered in smaller cities in southern central Serbia.

Today, a dozen years since the end of the war in Croatia, some 70,000 Croat Serbs still live in Serbia as refugees. The bulk of the refugee population fled Kosovo in 1999.

Overall, according to official and media figures, more than 400,000 people have arrived in Serbia from Kosovo and Croatia, while Bosnian Serbs largely remained displaced in Bosnia.

Many of the refugees live in sub-human conditions, without water and sanitation in abandoned barracks, schools or former recreational centres throughout Serbia.

"There are 16 people living in a single room here," said a refugee in a semi-destroyed former recreational centre on the outskirts of Belgrade.

"We live our entire lives here - eat, sleep, children study and play," the man said.

There are no real walls and doors between the "rooms," only makeshift screens. Though without tap water for eight months and sharing just one toilet, some 50 people living there recently refused relocation to "an even worse place," TV B92 reported.

Among the refugees and the displaced in Serbia, the Romas, or Gypsies, are in the worst position. With the Gypsies already facing discrimination and prejudice, those who arrived from Kosovo also have a hard time finding employment and securing education for their children. dpa ga gma

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