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Repatriation of War Orphans in Bosnia: Narratives of Nationhood and Care in Refugee Crises

Burcu Akan Ellis

Abstract

This study highlights the plight of children in state orphanages during conditions of war and its aftermath, in order to explore how state narratives trap children between contested notions of the best interests of the child, national belonging, and familial rights. This longitudinal study focuses on international media narratives covering a group of Bosnian orphans who were removed from the Bjelave orphanage in Sarajevo through a controversial German rescue mission in 1992. The orphans were provided temporary protection in Germany for five years but were repatriated to Bosnia in 1997 upon the Bosnian government’s request. In Bosnia, they were reintroduced into the national orphanage system, and eventually to the care of international NGOs. Their plight shows that narratives of care, national belonging and family rights are fundamental tools used to sustain state identities in the process of repatriation of refugees, leaving no voice or choice to the resilient children in question.

Keywords

Bosnia; war orphans; children; nationhood; refugees

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References

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