Pursuing Peace: The Return of Bosnian War Refugees from "Paradise Lands" to "Home"
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Drawing on in-depth interviews in Sarajevo (2019) with former Bosnian war refugees and the institutions taking part in post-conflict reconciliation, this research aims to examine the Bosnian returnees’ return, their re-establishment process and (non)migration aspirations. The point of departure of this research is the current Syrian refugees and their uncertain future. Considering that the war is on the verge of coming to an end and their repatriation will be a subject of debate in the near future, this paper wishes to establish lessons from previous policies, regulations and experiences by looking at the long-term consequences of the Bosnian refugees’ return. The research finds that, psycho-historical trauma of the forced displacement is the biggest motivation behind their decision to return. However, many of them could not return to their “home” and fell into the category of internally displaced, due to the country’s entrenched ethnic division into two entities. Regarding the re-migration aspirations, the study discovers that migration causes the loss of capitals (Bourdieu,1986). This, alongside returnees’ high capability level, prompted them to stay in Bosnia rather than leave. Overall, this paper argues that repatriation, despite its literal meaning, doesn’t always mean going back “home”. The formation of new capitals throughout the asylum experience, as well as the support of (inter)national institutions, may create challenges rather than opportunities in the course of re-establishment.