47 families of returnees and displaced persons in Foča and Bileća moved into new homes built with the support of the European Union under the Regional Housing Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Closing of Collective Centres and Alternative Accommodation project. As the biggest donor to the RHP, the European Union has allocated 63 million euros to BiH so far. The programme has a strong regional relevance as it contributes to building reconciliation and peace, and is the first initiative of its kind implemented on a regional basis.
For families displaced for over two decades, new homes and a secure roof over their heads is a dream come true. For 47 families, that dream came true today and they could not hide their happiness and eagerness to finally live in decent homes.
Gianluca Vannini, Head of the Operations Section for Social Development, Civil Society and Cross-Border Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to BiH handed over the keys of these new homes, stressing that the plan is to deliver more than 3,200 housing units in BiH. “We are almost half way done, as by the end of this year close to 1,500 vulnerable families will have a place to call home. The plan for 2020 is to deliver a further 500 housing units. A lot of work has been done; however, significant challenges for most of these families remain with regard to their economic and social wellbeing. Considerable efforts still need to be invested in order to ensure the integration of individuals and families into their communities,” said Vannini.
Vannini stressed the need for concrete efforts needed from the authorities to ensure full integration in these local communities, especially given the momentum of the hand-over and its significance to the protection of human rights of all citizens. “Yesterday we celebrated International Human Rights Day and as the Declaration outlines: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This is why we are here today, we want to ensure that every single person enjoys equal rights,” underlined Vannini.
Semiha Borovac, the BiH Minister for Human Rights and Refugees underlined the importance of providing housing to displaced persons and how it contributes to preserving peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. “The Regional Housing Programme has helped us to achieve this. Representatives of four countries came up with the idea of the Programme and we have managed to realise it with the help of our donor. I am happy to see the smiles and the pleasure on the faces of people entering their new homes. They have shown patience and desire to return to their homes and that is truly important,” said Minister Borovac.
As part of the CEB II project “Closing of Collective Centres and Alternative Accommodation” project, more than 7,200 persons from 121 collective centres and alternative housings will move into new homes. In addition, the European Union provides technical assistance for the implementation of the project through a grant.
More than €280 million was allocated so far to the Regional Housing Programme, of which €64.5 million relates to projects in BiH. In addition to the European Union, as the largest donor, with a contribution of €234 million, follow the United States, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Turkey and several other countries. Strong support to the program is provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB).