Returning to Places of Pain? Impact of Local War-Time Violence on the Post-War Refugee Returns in Bosnia

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Djordje STEFANOVIC, Saint Mary’s University, Canada
Neophytos LOIZIDES, Universiy of Kent, United Kingdom
This paper questions the conventional wisdom which claims forced migration is irreversible following massive ethnic cleansing campaigns, by investigating durable returns to pre-conflict communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In our previous studies (Stefanovic and Loizides 2011; Stefanovic and Loizides 2017; Metivier, Stefanovic, and Loizides 2017) we developed and tested a set of individual-level hypotheses on the refugee returns. So far, we have determined that women and those experiencing wartime victimization are less likely to return. Older Bosnians with positive memories of pre-conflict inter-ethnic relations are more likely to return than younger persons or those with negative memories. More nationalistic internally displaced persons (IDPs) are less likely to return. While the rural displaced tend to value community returns, the urban displaced are unlikely to do so. Family dynamics seems to influence community returns, as the decision to return often seems to be made by families, not isolated individuals.

In this paper, we go a step further, by focusing on the impact of the local war-time violence (killing and property destruction) on the likelihood of the post-war return of Bosnian forced migrants. We have already established (Stefanovic and Loizides 2017) that refugees who experienced war-related loss of significant other are less likely to return. In this study we combine our 2013 Bosnian representative survey sample with two new data sources (2013 Bosnian Census and 2013 Bosnian Book of Dead database) to test for the effect of contextual factors on the likelihood of return. We discuss the implications of our findings for theoretical explanations of refugee return migration and for policy interventions that could help the refugees who choose to return to places of pain.