Property issue major problem for Bosnian refugees return

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia, Sep 8, 2000 -- (AFP) The major problem facing refugees returning to Bosnia is regaining possession of their own homes, the UN's Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Soren Jessen-Petersen, said Thursday.

"The return is just the beginning of the process," Jessen-Petersen told a press conference here, adding that as well as refugees getting back into their own property, alternative accommodation had to be found for those who had been occupying other people's homes.

He said it was not clear whether the issue was not being solved due to a lack of political will, legal obstacles or pure bureaucratic delays.

"Probably it is combination of all three," Jessen-Petersen added.

However, he said that this year was one of the most encouraging in the refugee return in Bosnia.

Jessen-Petersen stressed he had noted a rise in the number of displaced persons returning to their respected Serb, Croat or Muslim communities -- some 20,000 since the beginning of the year.

Five years after the end of Bosnia's 1992-95 war there are still over one million Bosnian refugees, with almost two thirds of them displaced within the country occupying other people's houses, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Jessen-Petersen, on a one-week tour of Croatia and Bosnia, was to leave for Sarajevo later Thursday.

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