A refugee is a person whose life is in danger and therefore has fled out of his/her country and for justified reasons cannot or does not want to return. When refugees, throughout history, fled before alien armies, gathering not far from their homes with an intention to return soon, such groups organised refugee camps (zbeg). Great refugee waves used to change the population structure of the Serbian lands permanently. The 1990’s breakup of Yugoslavia gave rise to 2.7 million of refugees, of which 700,000 sought political asylum in the European countries. In the Croatian army and police campaigns complete Serbian population was driven out from the then established Republic of Serbian Krajina (Frontier). Also many refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina were left homeless. In the Kosovo war, for a short time, around 1 million people was displaced, with around 200,000 Serbs driven out as a final outcome of the conflict.
Serbia today has a refugee population that is the greatest in number in Europe. About half a million of refugees living in Serbia, make 7.5% of the total population.
Sometimes, the word exile is used for refugees – with an emphasis on a refugee situation due to a real pressure exerted rather than just fear.
A painting by Uroš Predić the Herzegovina Refugees
There have been several waves of refugees in the history of Serbs. From the beginnings of the Ottoman conquest, fleeing before the terror, Serbs left their homeland to the neighbouring countries. They had to flee before the German soldiers and the Ustasha… The Great Migration of the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija in the late 17th century is the best known refugee wave, and the Serbs also largely moved from their homes before and after the Great Migration, mostly at times of insurrections and wars. Before the latest refugee wave from Croatia and Bosnia, refugees from the same regions had been coming to Serbia in the WWII.