Serbia remains European country with most refugees

BELGRADE, Jun 19, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Serbia tops other European countries in terms of hosting refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs), Serbia's top refugee official said on Tuesday.

On the eve of World Refugee Day on Wednesday, Serbian Commissioner for Refugees Dragisa Dabetic said that the Balkan country has some 100,000 refugees and some 209,000 IDPs from the southern Serbian province of Kosovo as the disintegration of former Yugoslavia and following wars led to huge migrations.

To that number should be added nearly 200,000 refugees who have taken Serbian citizenship and remained in the country, he said.

According to the UN refugee agency, the number of refugees in Serbia has dropped to 98,296 as of the end of January 2007 from the height of 524,000 in 1996.

Serbia is doing everything both for the integration of refugees and for enabling them to return to their former homes in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dabetic said, adding that about 69,000 people have returned to Croatia, and slightly over 100,000 to Bosnia-Herzegovina, while about 30,000 left for third countries.

As regards Kosovo, figures differ, but it has been estimated that a symbolic number of between 2,000 and 3,000 have returned to the province, he said.

Serbian President Boris Tadic appealed on Tuesday for the speedy resolving of the problem of the position of hundreds of thousands of refugees and expelled persons in the territories of the former Yugoslavia.

Tadic also appealed to the leaders of the UN civilian mission in Kosovo and the governments in Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo, to attempt jointly to resolve this civilizational and humanitarian problem, because it is one of the prerequisites for the European future of this region.