Situation of Roma IDP’s and returnees in Tuzla canton and Bjelejina area in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2000

prepared by

Martin Demirovski
Consultant for the Roma Division
of the Council of Europe-Strasbourg, France

sponsored by
Joint Council of Europe/OSCE-ODIHR/European Commission

November 2000

In April 2000 Mr. Martin Demirovski with the support from the CPRSI in OSCE ODIHR-Warsaw, Poland has realized the first field mission in B&H. From that mission there is published a Report for the Electoral Participation and General Situation of Roma in B&H.

Finding very interesting the situation of Roma in B&H and wanting to follow the same, Mr. Demirovski has approached to the Roma section in the Council of Europe to sponsor his second mission in B&H. In a same time Council of Europe and OSCE ODIHR, both had their joint project about Roma under the Stability Pact and hired Mr. Demirovski as consultant.

Target group of this second mission are Roma Internally Displaced Persons, refugees and returnees in Tuzla Canton and partially Bijeljina area.

Host of the mission were Mr. Mehmed and Alaga Suljic, representatives of the Union of Roma, Lukavac, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Human Rights Department of the OSCE mission represented by Ms. Jo-Anne Bishop and Ms. Lejla Hadzimesic.

The mission was realized trough field visits of the Roma communities in B&H, meetings with Roma representatives and representatives of the International communities in B&H.

The UNHCR Update of UNHCR’s Position on Categories of Persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina in Need of International Protection says:

As a result of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), some 1.2 million persons fled abroad, mainly to countries of the former Yugoslavia and Western Europe, while an additional 1.3 million people became internally displaced. B&H had a pre-war population of some 4.38 million people. Almost 60 per cent of the total population was affected by the conflict. As at end of May 2000 it is estimated that a total of 356,308 refugees from abroad, as well as 309,631 displaced persons within B&H have returned, whereof 143,380 are minority returns.

As always during every of the refugee movements there are people from different national minority groups, among them Roma too.

The same report of UNHCR, mentioned above further says that:

The situation of members of the Roma communities in B&H remains critical. Before the conflict many Roma lived in the Sarajevo, Zenica, Kakanj, Tuzla and North-Eastern Bosnia (Zvornik, Bijeljina) areas, but many of those who were displaced from what is now the RS are living abroad or are displaced in the Federation. Members of this group are even less integrated into the post-conflict Bosnian society than they were before the conflict as they have now slipped even more into “political invisibility”, since their interests are not being represented by any existing political party. Bosnian society, including authorities, continues their traditional discrimination and marginalisation of this minority group. The discrimination against the Roma manifests itself in subtle forms. Within the Roma community, discrimination, as well as lack of political and economic support networks have resulted in an amplification of post conflict themes, such as unemployment and lack of housing, with which other Bosnians are presently coping. In particular, the approach devised by the International Community to promote return to contested space (Property Legislation Implementation Plan / PLIP) seems to be particularly problematic for this group, as many Roma did not have legal entitlements to housing before the war. Extreme poverty and lack of education seem to be the Roma communities’ greatest handicaps.

The most representing Human or Roma Rights organizations, European Roma Rights Centre from Budapest is its Roma Rights reports many time mentioned the difficult situation of Roma IDP’s and returnees in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ms.Tatjana Peric- monitors coordinator from the European Roma Rights Centre-Budapest in the snapshots in Roma Rights report N.1 2000 publication is saying that:

Four years after the warring parties ratified the Dayton Peace Agreement that provided for the return of refugees into the country, Roma who have returned to Bosnia from western Europe still do not have access to their pre-war homes in the vast majority of cases. In Bijeljina, Republika Srpska entity, only eleven Romani families have managed to move the occupants of their houses out. Most persons who have been persuaded to leave occupied houses have demanded and received 3000-6000 German marks (around 1530-3060 euro). In some instances, up to six Romani families share one reclaimed house, according to the Sarajevo-based weekly Dani of November 20, 1999.

The magazine also wrote that in some cases, institutional bodies of the government of Republika Srpska are presently located in usurped Romani houses. Examples cited include the Institute for School Publishing and the Institute for Education of Republika Srpska, Secret Police, several institutions of the Republika Srpska Army, and the Ministry for Refugees and Displaced Persons. Several thousand Roma from Bijeljina are presently in Berlin, under threat of removal from Germany to Bosnia. The repatriation of Roma from Western Europe to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other entity of the country, continues.

Mr Bajro Beganović told Dani that buses with Roma arrive very often from Berlin to Sarajevo and Tuzla, and that approximately 120 Romani families returned from Berlin to Zavidovići in central Bosnia during 1999. Sarajevo daily Dnevni avaz wrote on January 14, 2000, that in Zavidovići only three out of 120 Roma returnee families have permanent and satisfactory housing, while most others are temporarily placed in unauthorised and substandard locations. In the neighbouring municipality of Kakanj, the Roma settlement named Varda houses 108 families, out of which not a single one has water supply or sanitary infrastructure, and around one hundred school-aged children do not attend school. This is primarily because their living conditions hinder them from adequate preparation, according to Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje on November 2, 1999.

Also some other International organizations, Human Rights organization like Amnesty International-London in its report about Bosnia and Herzegovina called “Waiting on the doorstep: minority returns to eastern Republika Srpska”, July 2000 says that:

A particular problematic situation with regard to minority return is that of the displaced Roma community originating from Bijeljina in northeastern Republika Srpska. The pre-war Roma community in Bijeljina numbers around 4, 500 of whom only 250 remained during the war. Many of those fled or were expelled from the are spent the war as refuges in Germany and have returning to Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1996 mostly to become displaced in Tuzla Canton, where some 2000 of them currently live. This group is very keen to return to Bijeljina, where the pre-war Roma community mainly lived in the town centre. The Roma also claim that, apart from the characteristic slowness in processing their applications and non-execution of OMI decisions, in order to regain possession of their property theu have been forced to pay sums of between 5 000-6 000 DM to the occupants.

Tuzla Canton (TK) is located in the northeast corner of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the 1991 Census, the pre-conflict population of Tuzla Canton was 524,401 and the ethnic make-up was 69% Bosniac, 9% Bosnian Croat, 13% Bosnian Serb and 9% Other, which is meant to include Roma. Maybe, having and belonging to the category of OTHERS show the ignorant position toward Roma in that period. It is the same case again after the Dayton agreement, which mention just the three constitutional entities and category of others where all other national minority group belong like Roma, Turks, Albanians, and Jews etc.

According to the Statistical Institute, as of 30 June 1999, the population of TK was 533,557, which at that time included 142,554 DPs (27%). According to IOM estimates from July 1998 to August 1999, Tuzla Canton has received an estimated 22,166 repatriates from Germany alone, although these figures do not distinguish between returnees and DP’s.

Tuzla municipality is among the country’s few municipalities, which, to a certain extent, have remained multi-ethnic. Although Tuzla did experience minority displacement, it was not as a result of ethnic cleansing, but rather the minority communities’ apprehension at what the future might hold for them in a Muslim-dominated area.

In the area of Tuzla until now there was no any precise step toward Roma returnees and DP’s from the International communities. Just UNHCR has produced several reports about returnees and DP’s in Tuzla area in general, but with a very law percentage Roma are covered.

IV.1. Romani NGO’s in Tuzla Canton

There are few Romani NGO’s which exist in the area but they are not very influenced in the society. Among the “most known” could be mentioned the:

Union of Roma in B&H, represented by Mr. Mehmed Suljic in Lukavac
Sae Roma, represented by Saban Mujic in Tuzla

IV.2. Testimonies and real stories

After the meting with the representatives from the Union of Roma in B&H in Lukavac, Mr. Mehmed and Alaga Suiljic the consultant did a short visit of the Roma community in Lukavac, which is a small town in Tuzla Canton, actually close to Tuzla municipality.

The first visited place in Lukavac was the street 13 of September N.11 where there was visited the Roma family, Suljici.

IV.2. 1.


IV.2. 2.

Interviewee: Seat Ahmetovic
type of case: HOUSING


type of case: HOUSING


Background information about Oskovo village


town: Banovici


interviewee: Nedjad Jusic

municipality: Tuzla

In 1990, Sead (his brother) started to build the foundation of the house. And then in 1991 he finished building the structure of that house.

In 1992 when the war started Nedjad’s family went to Germany. During the war all of the three houses, which they had were destroyed from the local population. As in most of the cases toward Roma in B&H the locals wanted to show their anger why Roma left the community and went to Germany.

During Nedjad was in Berlin, he begun to organize the movement how better and easier Roma to come back to Bosnia. In a same time The Berlin Senat wanted to give them help and try to run projects for Roma with the money from the European Union.

Nedjad and some other Roma established contacts with the mayor from Tuzla. During those contacts the mayor of Tuzla municipality in one of his letter said that all Roma returnees could feel free to come back to Bosnia and Herzegovina and that everything will be safety for them in Tuzla.

In 1998 most of the Roma families came back from Germany to Tuzla. And again some similar cases as those in 1969 (noted above) with Roma returnees and the locals happened but not so loud as they were in that period.

Nedjad had his own case where the local municipality stilled his land where his brother in 1990 built a fondation for a house in the same land. During Nedjad was in Germany the local municipality of Tuzla built a memorial for soldiers who died during the forth years war. That memorial was built on his land and the local Government did not ask anyone from his family to build something like memorial. When he came back from Germany he saw that they built the memorial and because was very tens period. He did not like to ask the local municipality why they built the memorial on the land where the house of his brother used to be built.


During the talk with the consultant Merdjan stated:


Interviewee: Mr. Alaga Alimanovic
village: Olanovica
municipality: Kalesija
note: The Roma in this village do not have a social care
Their leaving conditions are not so good
Nobody of them work
There are some Roma who are selling old stuff/goods in the local bazaar.

In 1992 when the war started all Roma families from that village left and went in different Western European countries. Some of the Roma went to Germany some of them in Switzerland etc. Just five Roma persons stayed in Olanovica in that time because they were older persons. There are 80 Roma houses in that village. The whole village is a Roma village.

After some period of time Mr. Alaga Alimanovic renewed the project with the Berlin Senate. The project is to build Roma houses in Olanovica some of them to build as a new and some of them to be reconstructed.

Also in this community the Roma noted cases where some people are corrupted and taking 2000 DM how the house of that person who is giving that money will be built. This means that people are buying their place on the list.

IV.3. Statistics, numbers and results

The following text is a statistic which comes from the Roma NGO “Sae Roma”-Tuzla, which did a short view toward Roma in Tuzla area. The results were collected from interviewed 206 Roma families or 865 Roma persons in the area of Tuzla.

From the asked 806 Roma

The UNHCR‘s Returnee Monitoring Framework (RMF) study in Tuzla Canton from January 2000 covers returnees and DP’s from different national minority groups. Fortunately, 53 Roma interviewee were covered in that research from whom 25 Roma DP’s and 28 Roma returnees. The RMF says that in:

The Tuzla office of the Save the Children Fund in B&H has a statistic where in which parts of the municipality in Tuzla Canton Roma settlements or mahalas exist.





Sicki brod Bukinje . Crvene Njive .
Mosnicki Potok Ljubace Musnjac
Pasci Kiseljak Breze



Puracic Prokosovici Poljice
Kuljen Dobosnica Modrac
Gornje Crno Brdo



Savino Brdo Bisinka Stara Pruga Sjever 1
Rasadine Bisinka Nova Pruga Bucje
Bisinsko Naselje kod Groblja



Skahovica Doborovci Donje Orahovica
Senik Smetljiste Javor



Olanovica Lipovce Medas
Horozovina Staro Selo



Biberovici Vrla Strana



Ravnuse Duboki Potok



Cubric Oskova



Srnice Pozarike









approx. 30 familiies



Approx. 10 families



No community


UNHCR in its Returnee Monitoring Framework RMF, January 2000 has a table explanation of how many Roma and Bosnians DP’s have and do not have the DP card. We took just the number of how many Roma DP’s have/do not have the
DP card.

Before the war, Bijeljina Roma were the richest Roma in EX- Yugoslavia. Many of their houses now belong to Serbs and the Republika Srpska governmental bodies like the Ministry for Refugees and DP’s.

Ms. Iwona Safi from the OSCE mission in Bijeljina informed the consultant that the priority list of the OSCE work in Bijeljina is: property, rreturning, employment and education. Even having this “grateful priority list”, Ms. Safi said that they never received Roma clients or applicants. Which means that Roma cases never came on the desk of the OSCE in Bijeljina. Also she stated that OSCE in Bijeljina is aware that Roma houses now belong to the Republika Srpska Governmental bodies and that the process of returning Roma houses to Roma goes very slow.

Mr. Beganovic further said that before the war the Roma families like: Husic, Feratovic, Hidanovic, Mustafic, Beganovic, Hasimovic were the richest Roma in that town. Very interesting case was that a long period of time Mr. Karadjic spent in the house of Hasimovic family, which was the most exclusive and modern house. All of the above mentioned Roma families are abroad and applied their houses to be given back to them.

There was a case of manipulation with documents, which confirm ownership. The person who was in the house of Ms. Alimanovic Hurija manipulated and did a fake document that the house belongs to him not to Ms. Alimanovic Hurija. After that because Alimanovic Hurija is a housing case she had to improvise a “house” made of boards 30 m far from her own house i.e. in the yard of the house.

The police of Republika Srpska DENIED the presence of the consultant on Bijeljina streets because the consultant was making photos of the Roma houses which now belong to Republika Srpska governmental bodies. Luckily, just one photo could be made. It was the photo of the Ministry for Refugees and DP’s.

Many of the documents or reports are ends with the paragraph where the authors are writing their conclusions and recommendations. But because the author of this report is grateful for your time reading of the whole report gives you that freedom to make your own conclusions and if you are able and willing to recommend your points on the following addresses:

1 300 Kumanovo