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Belgrade, Yugoslavia -- June 3-5, 2001

CEME Best Practice Options

Belgrade, Yugoslavia

June 3-5, 2001

Yugoslavia Background............................................................................. 1

Migration and Refugee Issues.................................................................... 3

Conclusion......................................................................................................... 8

The Cooperative Efforts to Manage Emigration (CEME) project examines ways in which countries of origin, transit, and destination can work together to coordinate migration movements and reduce emigration pressures. The project focuses on source countries of migration that are in transition to market economies, democratic systems and greater respect for human rights, with the review that these developments are the best long-term solution to unauthorized migration.

CEME organizes site visits to seek best practices for:

· spurring economic development, democratization and respect for human rights in migrant areas of origin;

· developing cooperative efforts to use the three R's associated with current migration flows—recruitment, remittances, and returns—to help to reduce emigration pressures by, for example, using remittances to create jobs in migrant areas of origin; and

· promoting ongoing cooperation on migration matters between countries of origin, transit and destination.

Several CEME members visited the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in early June 2001 to examine the new government's approach to migration issues. We found that both the federal government and the Serb republic are faced with three principal issues related to immigration and refugees that require substantial cooperation with North American and European countries that are donors of international aid as well as recipients of Yugoslav migrants and third country nationals transiting Yugoslavia. These issues include:

· grappling with migration issues that the international community deems to be priorities, including demilitarizing border management, combating human smuggling and trafficking; and drafting and implementing an aliens law, which is to include asylum policies and procedures that are consistent with international standards;

· planning for the return or integration of 350,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia, and another 150,000 internally displaced Yugoslavs from Kosovo, primarily by offering dual citizenship in Yugoslavia and Croatia and Bosnia, so that the refugees can integrate in Yugoslavia but retain rights and privileges according to Croatians or Bosnians, and

· building bridges to Yugoslavs abroad in order to attract remittances and the return of professionals needed to rebuild Yugoslavia.

Yug Yugoslavia Background

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) comprises the republics of Serbia and Montenegro. The election of Vojislav Kostunica as President of the FRY in September 2000, and the subsequent removal of Slobodan Milosevic from power, marked a major shift away from a repressive, Communist regime towards a democratic republic. The FRY is now governed by a coalition, with the reformist Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), itself a coalition of 18 parties, holding 58 seats in the Parliament and the Socialist People's Party (SPP) from Montenegro holding 28 seats. The SPP was formerly allied with Milosevic and holds a disproportionate capacity to block legislation it opposes.

The Republic of Serbia is the larger and more populous of the two entities forming the FRY. In January 2001, the DOS formed a reformist government in Serbia, with Zoran Djindjic serving as prime minister. The new government, cooperating with NATO, appears to have put down a guerilla uprising on the border with Kosovo. At the same time, the status of Kosovo itself remains unsettled, with the United Nations continuing to govern the province and NATO peacekeepers maintaining a fragile peace between ethnic Albanians and the smaller number of ethnic Serbs and Roma who remained in Kosovo. The political situation in Montenegro is also unsettled. A minority government was formed in May after protracted negotiations following highly fragmented Parliamentary elections, and the republic appears evenly split between those who want to pursue independence and those who wish to remain within the FRY.

FRY's willingness to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague remains an uncertain issue as of this writing in mid June. The DOS withdrew legislation from the federal parliament that would have permitted the extradition of indicted war criminals, including Milosevic, when it became clear that the SPP would block passage. The legislation may instead go to the Serbian parliament for passage, or, alternatively, President Kostunica could re-interpret existing law to permit extradition to an international body, saying that the law only prohibits extradition to a national authority.

The economic outlook for FRY depends heavily on the willingness of western countries and the IMF and World Bank to provide needed assistance and loans. A donors conference is scheduled for the end of June, but commitment of funds from the United States and other donors will depend on resolution of the extradition issue. In the meantime, highllapmployment and high inflation makes future economic recovery unlikely without outside assistance.

In assessing the situation in the FRY, it is important to keep in mind that the new government is less than one year old and still faces formidable challenges. All of the officials representing the new governments in both FRY and Serbia are new to their jobs, in some cases having been in office for less than six months. The holdover civil servants from the old regime continue in place, often creating an awkward situation in which the most knowledgeable officials are those with the least commitment to reform. With the situation in Montenegro still in flux, the competencies of the federal government relative to the republican governments are also unclear. Should Montenegro leave the federation, it is assumed that the responsibilities now carried out by the federal government would become incorporated into the republics, but they remain with the FRY for now.

Migration and Refugee Issues

Three principal migration and refugee issues require immediate attention in the FRY:

· managing migration into and through the FRY, particularly related to border control, smuggling and trafficking, and the development of an aliens law that includes new asylum procedures;

· finding durable solutions for the thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons on the territory of the FRY; and

· tapping the human and financial resources of the millions of Yugoslavs living abroad to help in the reconstruction and future development of the country.

All of these issues, as discussed more fully below, require cooperation between the FRY and the countries of Europe and North America that are recipients of migrants traveling through and from the FRY and that are donors for economic reconstruction and development.

Managing Miguntron. Yugoslavia borders seven countries, making it very useful as a transit point to the West. These countries are Hungary to the north and west, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the west, Albania and Macedonia to the south, and Bulgaria and Romania to the east. Once inside FRY, the borders are fairly porous into its neighboring countries of Eastern Europe, which are used as a gateway to the West.

Although not a totally new phenomenon, during the past decade, the FRY has become a major point of departure and transit for migrants seeking to go into West Europe and North America. The movements of Yugoslavs themselves are related to conflict in the former Yugoslav republics as well as economic sanctions and economic decline in the FRY. Transit migration was aided, as discussed below, by smugglers and traffickers who saw that FRY did not require visas from nationals of many countries of origin--including China, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine--and had few incentives to stop migrants from moving through its territory to western destinations. One informant referenced frequent charter flights from Belgrade to Banja Luka in the Serb republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, from which the migrants would continue their journey.

An official of the FRY Ministry of Interior set out several policy priorities to stop such irregular migration through FRY, mentioning that the European Union was particularly insistent on these reforms.

Smuggling and Trafficking. A first priority is to reduce smuggling and trafficking through Yugoslavia. All persons whom we interviewed referenced smuggling and trafficking as both a migration and humanitarian problem. An IOM project, which interviewed trafficked women, determined that the majority of European women trafficked to the Balkans come from Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, and Bulgaria.[i] Although most are destined for other European countries, Serbian law allows escort businesses to be registered and to advertise their work publicly[ii], creating a market in Yugoslavia for the women. In addition to trafficked women, children are also kidnapped and trafficked, used for prostitution, begging, stealing, and sold for adoption.[iii] The main migrant routes from the Balkans to Western Europe seem to be from Yugoslavia to Hungary and Austria. Other routes are from Yugoslavia to Greece, passing through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).[iv] Serbian women are mainly trafficked to Italy, Greece, Cyprus, the Netherlands, and Germany.[v] Roma women and children are also trafficked from FRY. The British journal "Independent" estimates that 7,000 Roma went from Serbia to Italy in a few weeks in the summer of 1999.[vi]

The Chinese who come to Serbia usually enter in Belgrade, which already has a large Chinese community. Predrag Milojevic, who runs a consulting agency for Chinese who want to remain in Yugoslavia, says "About 80,000 Chinese have used Yugoslavia as a first step for their clandestine journeys to the West since the early 1990s. … They are using Serbia as a gateway to the West at the rate of 400 people a week."[vii] They then illegally cross the border into East European countries. This can be seen in the migration statistics. For example, in early 2000 the Hungarian Interior Minister confirmed that an average of 100 to 150 Chinese a month were trying to illegally enter Hungary from Yugoslavia.[viii] In addition, the Croatian press reports daily of apprehensions of irregular migrants from Serbia. And, most of the migrants into Macedonia are from Yugoslavia.[ix]

FRY has signed the Palermo Protocols on Smuggling and Trafficking of the UN Convention Against Organized Crime. At present, though, Yugoslavia has insufficient legal mechanisms to punish trafficking/smuggling. [x] Yugoslavia's Criminal Code does not contain any specific criminal offense relating to trafficking of women and children although various provisions relate to aspects of trafficking.[xi] Several NGOs are currently working on a draft law to submit to the government.

Even with an improved legal framework, there will continue to be problems of enforcement. The police and prosecutors are not familiar with the trafficking/smuggling problem, have no experience dealing with it, and have no means of intervening. Even if they did, the insecurity in the country would place this problem low on the state's priority list.[xii] Prosecution is rare and when a crime is reported, the victims are treated as criminals.[xiii] Some observers note that the police are often complicit with the traffickers, requiring more extensive efforts to combat corruption as well as the trafficking itself.

There are also problems arising from a lack of protection for the victims. Since the trafficked and smuggled are illegal residents, they are afraid of their pimps and smugglers. In addition the migrants avoid contact with the police for fear of being caught and sent home. Thus, the women usually don't report crimes perpetrated against them[xiv] and the smuggled usually don't report mistreatment by their smugglers. There are at present no institutionalized prevention programs or policies to deal with the issue.[xv]

Border Management. A second priority relates to border management. The border police have been highly militarized, and they require substantial retraining to ensure that they are able to deter irregular crossings in a manner that respects human rights. At present, there is not a clear division of responsibility between the FRY border police and the Serb border police, making it difficult to accomplish some of the necessary reforms and retraining.

Aliens Law. The drafting of a new aliens law, with policies and procedures to adjudicate asylum claims, is also on the agenda of the new FRY government. The drafting of the law appears to be a higher priority for the European Union than for the FRY government. As one ministry official stated, if cooperation with the EU requires Yugoslavia to be its southern border for asylum purposes, FRY will do its part. At present, asylum seekers are referred to UNHCR for adjudication of their claims. UNHCR often requests third country resettlement for those whose claims fall within the 1951 Refugee Convention. Under the aliens law to be drafted, Yugoslavia would adjudicate refugee claims itself. Preparatory to drafting a new law, FRY officials are examining the policies and procedures of other central and eastern European countries, with particular reference to candidate countries for EU enlargement. A Ministry of Interior official said that the legal framework in Slovenia appeared to be the best model for FRY. Officials welcomed additional advice, however, as the ministry is not yet prepared to undertake the drafting of the law.

Refugees and Displaced Persons. There are more than 400,000 refugees in the republic of Serbia. Most of the refugees are ethnic Serbs displaced from Croatia (primarily the Krajina region and eastern Slavonia) and Bosnia. Displacement into Serbia began as early as 1992 and continued with large influxes from Croatia in 1995 and again in 1998. In addition, about 200,000 people are internally displaced, mostly ethnic Serbs and Roma from the province of Kosovo. Smaller populations of both refugees and internally displaced persons are in the republic of Montenegro.[xvi] Some of the refugees and internally displaced moved as a result of conflict, whereas others were forced to relocate as part of ethnic cleansing campaigns.

Most refugees and internally displaced persons rent their own housing or live with relatives and friends. About 35,000 refugees and 13,000 internally displaced still live in collective centers.

The challenge for the FRY and republican governments with the support of the international community is finding durable solutions for the refugees and internally displaced persons. The UNHCR generally references three durable solutions: voluntary repatriation, local integration and third country resettlement. All three options are in place in Yugoslavia, but there is still some debate about the relative balance to be given to each solution, particularly regarding repatriation versus integration.

Voluntary Repatriation. Agreements are in place permitting voluntary repatriation to both Bosnia and Croatia. Most returns to Bosnia are spontaneous and appear to be to Republica Srpska, the Serb section of Bosnia. The US Committee for Refugees estimates that about 30,000 ethnic Serbs have returned to Bosnia since the signing of the Dayton Accord. UNHCR did not have an exact number of returns to Bosnia, noting that the porous borders between FRY and Republica Srpska permit refugees to go back and forth at will. Reclamation of property remains a major barrier to repatriation, however, particularly for refugees whose property is now occupied by others who were displaced by the conflict and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

A formal arrangement governs repatriation to Croatia. Under the bilateral agreement between the two governments, the Croatian consulate issues travel documents to those who wish to return. UNHCR estimates that as many as 90,000 Croatian refugees have applied for the documents. Far fewer have returned permanently under this program, however. UNHCR estimates only 8,000 have permanently returned since 1998. Refugees must show that they resided in Croatia for five years prior to their departure to qualify for repatriation. They must also demonstrate that they will have accommodations upon return. Since many of the refugees lost their houses upon their departure, or have seen their public housing privatized, the lack of accommodation is a real barrier to return. An even greater barrier is fear about their future safety. During several interviews, we heard about refugees arrested upon coming back to Croatia for visits. These arrests have had a chilling effect on the willingness of refugees to repatriate even though some respondents noted that the arrests were for well-documented war crimes. Reflecting these problems, a recent survey by UNHCR showed that a majority of the refugees do not believe that repatriation is a feasible solution for them.

A number of programs have been established to encourage and facilitate return to Croatia, but at present, they are small in scale. For example, the Norwegian Refugee Council provides legal counseling to refugees who are finding their return blocked by Croatian authorities. The International Rescue Committee works with local organizations to identify potential returnees and prepare them for repatriation. Refugees opting for return are referred to IRC's Croatia programs to help them reintegrate. This approach has helped a few hundred refugees to return. A number of respondents thought that more pressure could be placed on Croatia to lift barriers to return, but an equal number also felt that the majority of refugees would prefer to stay in Serbia. Many families have been in Serbia for years, and their school age children, in particular, have already integrated.

At present, there is little if any expectation of return of internally displaced persons to Kosovo. Even agencies that operate repatriation programs for Croatians and Bosnians agree that the unsettled situation in Kosovo preclude discussion of any large-scale return.

Local Integration. In contrast to the pessimism about repatriation, there is optimism that large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons will be able to achieve local integration. First steps towards this goal occurred when FRY passed legislation permitting dual citizenship. Since 1997, refugees have been eligible for FRY citizenship but until the new legislation, they had to renounce their previous citizenship. Croatia already accepts dual citizenship, at least in principle, and there are discussions underway with Bosnia, which requires bilateral agreements on citizenship, to recognize dual citizenship with FRY. Dual citizenship permits refugees who settle permanently in FRY to retain rights to property and eventual return to their former home country. This provides both psychological and practical safeguards to those who are unwilling to renounce their homeland even if they are doubtful that return will take place.

Even those who do not take on FRY citizenship are afforded most of the rights of citizens. They have indefinite permission to remain in FRY, access to the labor market and education, access to health care on the same basis as nationals, and can even get passports for travel. Some receive small grants from the government in lieu of the pensions that they would have received had they not emigrated.

The barriers to full integration appear to be more economic than legal. Hence, the prospects for successful integration depend principally on recovery of the economy, which will affect economic opportunities for refugees and internally displaced persons along with others in FRY. Formal employment is difficult to find in Serbia, and many of the refugees who work do so on the gray economy. They trade items in street stalls and engage in other similar activities. The refugees and internally displaced persons who remain in collective centers need their own housing, as do many of those who have been living with family and friends. Often the housing units are overcrowded and in serious need of repair.

The FRY and Serb governments, along with the international organizations and nongovernmental organizations that work with forced migrants, are placing great hopes on the donors conference at the end of June to provide the funds for general economic recovery and refugee-specific programs. The government ministries provided us few concrete examples, however, of the types of refugee and displaced person programs that they would propose to the donors. Even when pressed for examples, the ministries tended to be very general and often referred to the UN agencies and NGOs as the better source of information about specific program needs. There appears to be considerable need for capacity-building within the government if they are to be full partners in the process of refugee integration.

Third Country Resettlement. The United States—along with Canada and Australia--operate refugee resettlement programs in FRY. There are currently about 10,000 Croatian and Bosnian refugees in the pipeline for relocation. Priority is given to refugees referred by UNHCR, generally because there are concerns about their immediate protection. UNHCR also refers Croatian refugees from the Krajina and eastern Slavonia, some of them having been doubling displaced first from their home country and then from their initial settlement site in Kosovo. The United States also resettles refugees from the former Yugoslavia if 1) they or a spouse had been detained because of their religion, race or ethnicity; 2) they or a spouse had suffered torture for similar reasons; 3) they were members of a ethnically mixed marriage; or 4) they have close relatives in the United States. The number of UNHCR referrals has diminished since the change in government, and it is expected that once all of the refugees in the pipeline have had their cases processed.

Yugoslav Diaspora. The FRY government estimates there are some 1.5 million Yugoslav citizens and another 1.5-1.8 million former nationals working abroad. Many of the expatriates have university degrees. This is particularly true of Yugoslavs who left during the Milosevic era. On an annual basis, the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Social Affairs co-host a conference to which members of the diaspora are invited. In the past, this process has led to contributions from the diaspora towards humanitarian assistance. These funds were particularly important to counteract some of the effects of economic sanctions.

There is general recognition that the expatriate community is a source of both human and financial capital for the economic development of Yugoslavia. The government would like to stimulate the return of qualified nationals who would bring capital back to invest in productive enterprises. Their model appears very ambitious, however, focusing on a few wealthy expatriates who could buy entire companies. They do not appear to be looking at models used in other countries that permit large numbers of expatriates to contribute small amounts to infrastructure or business development. Officials generally dismissed remittances as an important economic input, saying that the amounts are small and mostly go towards consumption. Again, there appeared to be little familiarity with the experiences of other countries, in which remittances have had multiplier effects in stimulating the economy even when used for consumption.

Con Conclusion

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is clearly in a state of early transition from dictatorship to democracy. Its future will depend on both internal reform and the willingness of the international community to financially and politically support needed change. Such pressing issues as smuggling/trafficking and durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons are receiving welcome attention during this period of transition. Cooperation between FRY and the donor governments, who are also recipients of irregular migrants from or transiting Yugoslavia, is essential to progress being made on these fronts.


[i] IOM Sarajevo, IOM Trafficking in Migrants- Quarterly Bulletin, No. 22- Autumn 2000.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] IHF-HR.

[iv] IOM Sarajevo.

[v] IHF-HR.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Dragana Jovanovic, "Gateway to Opportunity," July 13, 2000?,, accessed on 4/18/2001.

[viii] IOM Sarajevo.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Trafficking can be covered under crimes against international law and practice, in the chapter "Criminal Acts Against Humanity and Other Objects Protected by International Law." Crime number 155 "Slavery and Transportation of Human Beings Within the Position of Slaves" covers trafficking.[xi] It is defined as, 1. "Giving someone the status of slavery," 2. "Trafficking in human beings who are already slaves," 3. "Inducing someone to sell their own freedom, or to sell the freedom of a dependent person or child," and 4. "The transfer of human beings who are in a relationship of slavery or in another similarly dependent relationship."

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] US Committee for Refugees, World Refugee Survey: 2001, Washington DC: US Committee for Refugees, 2001, pp. 274-275.