The fate of refugees and emigrants from the territory of the former Yugoslavia

The Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation (CHDR) Novi Sad and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) Salzburg organized in November 2008 international scientific meeting.

"The fate of refugees and emigrants from the territory of the former Yugoslavia"

At the Faculty of European Legal and Political Studies (FEPPS) in Sremska Kamenica 27. and November 28, 2008. a scientific conference was held. The theme of the meeting was “The fate of refugees and emigrants from the territory of the former Yugoslavia”.

Historians, lawyers, political scientists and sociologists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and the USA led a discussion on this topic.

The sponsor of the conference is the Secretariat for Science and Technological Development of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina .

The organizers of the conference are: Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation (CHDR), Novi Sad and Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) , Salzburg.

The conference was opened by the dean of the Faculty of Legal and Political Studies, prof. Dr. Ilija Babić.

After his speech, the following spoke: Ambassador Hans Ola Urstad , head of the OSCE mission in Serbia, prof. Dr. Darko Gavrilović, director of CHDR and prof. Dr. Elazar Barkan , from Columbia University in New York.

Prof. Darko Gavrilović quoted the words of the famous Italian writer Italo Calvino: “We must enter the sea in order to understand what the sea is, and in order to understand what the desert is, we must take sand in our hands.” He pointed out that scientists from CHDR and IHJR should also delve into their common past. They should take into their hands the documents that bear witness to that past, impartially and without prejudice. This is the only way to understand the past and use its lessons in the future. Those lessons should be addressed not only to the academic community, but also to political actors and the people.

Ambassador Urstad spoke about the importance of cooperation with the UN High Representative for Refugees (UNHCR). It is necessary to cooperate with other organizations that have a good will to solve the problems of refugees. The ambassador emphasized that the international community is trying to help solve problems related to refugees. As a result of these efforts, something has already been achieved. However, the ambassador also expressed dissatisfaction with the engagement on these issues and suggested that everyone participate in this long and arduous process.

Historical and global phenomenon of mass migrations

After the introductory words, prof. Elazar Barkan gave a lecture in which he looked at the historical and global phenomenon of mass migration . Prof. Barkan noted that there were more than 200 million refugees in the world, and that the largest number escaped after World War II.

From the first cases of refugees in the 20 century until today, several conventions have been adopted. Some of them are: Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948. and the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Prof. Barkan also recalled recent waves of refugees in recent years from Iraq, Georgia and Kenya. Unfortunately, the return of refugees belonging to minority groups has apparently been absent. All refugees have the right to return. He emphasized that if the refugee crisis is the result of political conflict, then a change in policy can help resolve the issue. However, if the reason for the conflict is an issue of identity, whether ethnic, national or religious, then return is unlikely.

He noted that he is not stating a philosophical or legal thesis, but simply presenting an empirical description – that refugees are not returning, even though they should be. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that limitation.

The international community should focus on helping refugees, by promising them the right to a home, since refugees suffer more than others in these crises.

Prof. Barkan concluded that instead of prolonging the crisis, we should insist on resettlement, reconstruction and conflict resolution.

Thematic groups of the conference: The fate of refugees and emigrants from the territory of the former Yugoslavia"

During the two-day conference, the participants worked in two thematic groups. The first group dealt with refugee issues , both the latest period of the refugee crisis in connection with the breakup of Yugoslavia, and solutions to this problem in the distant past. The second group dealt with emigration from the former Yugoslavia , with an emphasis on emigration in the 20th century. century.

Refugees and displaced persons in the territory of the former Yugoslavia

The first group dealt with the topic “Refugees and displaced persons in the territory of the former Yugoslavia”. The coordinators of this group were members of the CHDR Board of Directors: prof. Ph.D Ana Trbović from the Faculty of Economics, Finance and Administration in Belgrade, Ph.D Vesna Ivanovic from the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism in Zagreb, and others Ranka Gasic from the Institute of Contemporary History in Belgrade.

They focused the discussion on three basic topics: historical perspectives, contemporary issues and the image of refugees in the media.

Historical perspectives of the problem of refugees and immigrants in the territory of the former Yugoslavia

Reports of prof. Dr. Adnan Jahić from the Faculty of Philosophy in Tuzla, prof. Dr. Željko Bartulović from the Faculty of Law in Rijeka and M.Sc. Nebojša Petrović from the Student Center of the University of Novi Sad dealt with the historical perspectives of the problem of refugees and immigrants.

They emphasized the role of the state in creating and solving refugee and migrant problems. They concluded that examples of the state’s response were more political than purely humanitarian in nature. It is necessary to encourage the state to be more impartial and to treat in an equal way the issues of displacement of people from certain regions, nations or ethnic groups.

These papers showed that the problem of refugees was present in the territory of the former Yugoslavia throughout the 20th century. century. The public should be more aware of these problems, which should be approached without prejudice and bias. It was established that the state of historiography in this matter is generally bad. However, several existing studies may serve as a useful starting point for future projects.

Contemporary problems of refugees and immigrants in the territory of the former Yugoslavia

In another group of scientists who worked on the same topic “Refugees and displaced persons in the territory of the former Yugoslavia ” were: prof. Ph.D Janko Veselinović from Alfa University in Novi Sad, prof. Dr. Ljubica Đorđević from FEPPS, MSc Mila Dragojević from Brown University in Providence (USA), prof. Dr. Ljubiša Despotović from the Faculty of Culture and Media from Belgrade and prof. Dr. Srđan Šljukić from the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad. They talked about contemporary issues related to refugees, such as their return and integration perspectives.

It was pointed out that there is a UN study in Croatia, which concluded that if the current situation continues, the returnees will probably be increasingly isolated. The study concluded that the demographic picture and overall social situation of returnees is very problematic. The question is whether the states and communities affected by the refugee problem are able to effectively solve those problems. One of the necessary factors for successfully solving these extraordinary problems is the cooperation of institutions in the entire region of the former Yugoslavia, which is affected by the plight of refugees, whether it is the place of origin or the destination to which the refugees went.

For example, in Croatia there are cases of abuse of the legal system at lower levels, where ethnic discrimination makes it difficult for refugees to return. Writing a book was mentioned among concrete proposals for future projects. The book would refer to contemporary problems related to the refugee crisis in the former Yugoslavia. Also, given the availability of government documents, data collected in services dealing with individual refugee problems would be an excellent source of valuable research material for future projects.

Scientists from the area of ​​the former Yugoslavia should cooperate with the existing network of scientists from other parts of Europe, who deal with similar problems. This group proposed the creation of an atlas that would contain maps of refugee routes throughout the world.

The response of the state and the media to the problems of refugees

The response of the state and the media to the problems of refugees was the third topic within this working group. Prof. Dr. Zoran Jevtović from the Faculty of Culture and Media from Belgrade analyzed in his paper the content of Serbian media during the 1990s. century. He concluded that refugees play a passive role in those texts. Du is often placed in the background of the conflict, as an additional justification for prolonging the war.

Problems related to refugees were mostly absent from the media. And the existing texts tended to present how the state took care of them.

However, when we analyze the role of the state in meeting the needs of refugees at that time, it is clear that this picture is far from reality.

The refugee crisis has been misused in the media for political purposes, in order to satisfy the needs and interests of certain political actors.

The image of refugees created in the media shows their seemingly successful integration. This is not confirmed by the facts about the real conditions under which they still live in Serbia.

Emigrants in the territory of the former Yugoslavia

The working group that dealt with the topic ” Emigrants in the territory of the former Yugoslavia ” was coordinated by Dr. Igor Graovac from the Croatian Institute of History in Zagreb.

There were five reports in this group.

Prof. Dr. Vjekoslav Perica from the Faculty of Philosophy in Rijeka treated theoretical and conceptual issues related to diaspora and emigration.

Examples of refugees who became emigrants during the 20th century. century in the territory of the former Yugoslavia were presented in the report of Prof. Dr. Boris Kršev from FEPPS.

The three phases of emigration of cultural workers from this region are presented in the report of Prof. Dr. Zoran Đerić from the Academy of Theater and Fine Arts from Banja Luka.

Prof. Dr. Edin Radušić from the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo spoke about individual examples of emigrants in BiH during the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

Prof. Dr. Darko Gavrilović from FEPPS presented the experience of Svetozar Pribićević in emigration. A politician who completely changed his political orientation towards the regime in Yugoslavia.

With the aim of further studies of emigration on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, we refer to some open questions and problems that can be treated at future conferences.
  • Emigrants constitute a special category that is sometimes too strictly and sometimes insufficiently separated from the concepts of refugees and displaced persons.
  • In the study of emigration, it is not enough to concentrate only on political emigration, as the most interesting form. Economic and ethnic types of migration should also be examined. When it comes to the greater part of the 20 century, in the case of political emigration, and especially in the context of the Yugoslav state, the largest number of emigrants were anti-Yugoslav oriented. The only exception is the emigration of information bureaus, whose pro-Yugoslav orientation, however, had a pro-Soviet Yugoslavia in mind.
  • When it comes to socialist countries, including the former Yugoslavia, it is important to review internal emigration as a reality and as a concept. For the recent period of the 1990s. century, we can wonder if there was any “Yugoslav” emigration in the West at all.
  • In that period, there is a new type of political emigration – regional political emigration. It can be found all over the territory of the former state. That emigration does not leave the region, but settles in its ethno-national states.
  • It is obvious that these new forms of emigration have nothing to do with the previous ones. A new, or so-called, appears. “invisible” diaspora, about which there is no official record, while the classic concept of diaspora is slowly disappearing. The invisible diaspora belongs to a new type of nationalist myths. The new nation-states want to hide the real scale of emigration, since it would be difficult to reconcile mass emigration with the realization of the national dream of their citizens.
Presented collection of scientific papers

At the end of the conference, the proceedings of the previous conference were presented.Serbian-Croatian relations in the 20th century. century. Past and perspectives”, which was held in Golubić near Obrovac, 18-20. September 2008

At the promotion held in the Youth Theater in Novi Sad, Prof. Dr. Elazar Barkan, prof. Dr. Darko Gavrilović, Dr. Igor Graovac, prof. Dr. Janko Veselinović and Dr. Vjekoslav Perica.

The speakers emphasized the importance of the term “reconciliation”. Reconciliation not as a process of harmonization of opinions. Reconciliation as a process of dialogue between parties who do not necessarily share an opinion, but who are able to understand and empathize with each other.

Only through such constant dialogue can relations between parties that were once in conflict be normalized. However, not to the point of complete agreement, but to the point where any potential armed conflict between them becomes completely unfeasible.

Scientific papers from the meeting "Fate of refugees and emigrants from the territory of the former Yugoslavia" in PDF format:

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