Under an agreement signed by Croatian and German officials, 60,000 Croatian refugees will have to return to Croatia by the end of the summer. What are the ramifications of this decision? What do the refugees think? Is Croatia ready to accept them?
View of lakes and green fields. Interview with a refugee who lived in Eastern Slavonia until October 1991, when he decided to leave for Germany. He stands in shadow and explains that in the next ten days he is facing expulsion from Germany to return to Croatia. Shots of cars with Croatian number plates driving along a highway. 60,000 Croatians are being returned to their home country this summer as was agreed by the German and Croatian government last year. 20,000 Croatians were returned last year to areas under Croatian government control but this group of refugees will return to parts of Croatia that are still occupied or have been heavily destroyed.
Interview with Judith Kumin, UNHCR Representative for Germany, who says that they are concerned about this operation because few preparations seem to have been made for housing these refugees on their return. Interview with a refugee who came to Germany from the village of Babska in the Vukovar municipality. He has lived in Germany for three years. Shots of him working as a waiter at a restaurant. He says that he has not been told who will take care of them or where they will be accommodated.
Interview with Zdenka BabiÄ‡-PetriÄ�eviÄ‡, Croatian Consul-General, Stuttgart, who says that they are still awaiting lists of refugees paired up with specific locations. She hopes that this will not have to be distributed at Zagreb train station. Judith Kumin, UNHCR Representative for Germany, says that relocating this number of people requires a detailed plan of action. These people will be arriving in a country that is already housing refugees from Serb-held parts of Croatia and Croat refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina and she is worried that accommodation centres will not be able to cope with 60,000 extra refugees.
Shots of destroyed and deserted houses. Interview with Boris ÄŒepin, Deputy Head of the Croatian Office for Displaced People and Refugees, who says that they expect some of the refugees to be housed by relatives and friends and others returning to Western Slavonia to be accommodated in flats.
The situation is more complicated for those refugees that are ethnically Croat but are citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina or Serbia, who only received Croatian passports in transit through Croatia to Germany. Interview with Marko who explains that his documentation says that he is from MoroviÄ‡, â€˜an occupied village in Croatiaâ€™ even though it is in Vojvodina, Serbia. He will not be returning to Serbia after deserting from the Serbian army but he is worried that when he arrives in Croatia he will be drafted into the Croatian army. Shot of piles of papers and documentation on the table, glasses and cigarette butts. Germany are only allowing Bosnians to stay if they give up their new Croatian papers. Interview with a deserter from the Bosnia-Herzegovina army, in shadow and with voice disguise, who took Croatian papers to escape to Germany. As a deserter he cannot hold Bosnian identification so he will be unable to stay in Germany.
Interview with Christoph Kleinschmidt, Interior Ministry, Stuttgart, who justifies the German decision to force Croatian refugees to return. He says that there has been an agreement about the independent status of Croatia as a country from 1992 and with that a cessation of hostilities, monitored by UN peacekeeping forces. As early as 1992, Germany was asked by Croatian authorities to facilitate the return of refugees to help with the re-building process in Croatia. Zdenka BabiÄ‡-PetriÄ�eviÄ‡, Croatian Consul-General, says that returning refugees will be encouraged to work on re-building projects. She hopes that they will want to help their homeland. Shots of houses partially destroyed by shelling. Judith Kumin, UNHCR Representative for Germany, does not believe that the time is right for refugees to return as it will put unnecessary pressure on the state in terms of providing humanitarian aid. She thinks refugees should be allowed to stay until they are able to return to their real homes rather that start again at another temporary home.