According to the official statistics, only 133.000, mostly elderly, Serbs, returned to Croatia (30 percent are aged 65 and older). A significant number did return at the end of the 90s and the biggest number returned in 2001 (total of 15.000). Afterwards, there was a decline in the number of returnees, and nowadays only around hundred refugees return in a year.

The beginning of the return of the refugees was marked by the insecurity due to murders, beatings, threats, and lootings. The fact remains that throughout the war and afterwards and in particular after the Operation Storm the areas where refugees worked and lived were systematically destroyed and the fear represented impediment to their return.

The laws passed by the Croatian Parliament during the 90s, such were in favor of the newly arrived Croat refugees thus preventing Serbs to claim their tenancy rights which were transferred to Croats. As such, these laws were discriminatory and in particular the Law on Reconstruction and Repair of the Property passed after the war. The mentioned legislative regulations stimulated immigration of Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and created obstacles for systematic return of the Serbs.

It was in 2002, that the climate for the return of the refugees changed for better. The Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities was adopted and gradually the previous laws were amended. However, it was difficult to sustain the return due to the fact that the areas where the Serbs had lived were economically underdeveloped. According to the studies conducted by the UNHCR, only 48 per cent of the returned refugees remained. The lack of basic living conditions forced these returnees to move back to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The younger generations emigrated abroad in search for better work opportunities.

Some procedures by the Croatian authorities still represent an impediment to faster return and easier reintegration of Serbs. The vulnerable groups such as the pensioners were seriously affected. In spite of the Agreement on Social Security reached in 1997 between FR Yugoslavia and Croatia, the Serb pensioners who at the time of the war were living on the territory of the so called 'SAO Krajina' did not receive their pensions up to the 1998.

The process of convalidation of years of service has discriminatory aspects. The right for recognition for the years of service to Serbs is still not recognized by some local offices. However, the same rights are recognized to Croats. Despite the fact that the process of return has been alleviated, it is the slowness of the Croatian administration that is causing the problems regarding health and social security rights.

The exiled Serbs’ associations are insisting upon the implementation of the Annex G of the Succession Agreement of former federal republic Yugoslavia: Private Property and Acquired Rights which regulates the return of the land, property and savings to the Serbs. The Republic of Croatia did not sign the mutual agreement with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, countries where the majority of the exiled Serbs live, hence they cannot claim their rights outlined in the Succession Agreement.

The Serb National Council, as self government of Serbs in Croatia, is actively participating in facilitating the return of refugees and on integration of Serbs into Croatian society. Its Legal Department assisted over 3500 families in the matters of housing care, documents claim, pension rights, health insurance and social care.

The Program for Return and Housing Care of Expelled Persons, Refugees and Displaced Persons (Official Gazette, 92/98)

The ordinance on the manner of calculating and the height of the means of subsistence to refugees and returnees (Official Gazette, 133/13)

Decree on rights of refugees, displaced persons and returnees (Official Gazette, 133/1)