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Balkan-Swedes rally to help flood victims

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Flooding near Belgrade. Photo: TT
17:18 CEST+02:00
Members of Sweden's sizable community of first and second-generation Balkan immigrants have rallied to get Swedes to donate money to relief efforts for the victims of flooding in Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia.
 
Floods that have decimated towns across the Balkan and claimed the lives of an estimated 50 people. The water levels have destroyed homes and local agriculture, made minefields unstable, and left people susceptible to disease.
 
The news first reached the Balkan-Sweden through social media, not through traditional news outlets.
 
"I found about it through Facebook. It was them who described what was happening. It was several days before it was in the media," Emira Ramic, a Bosnian-born journalist in Stockholm, told The Local.
 
Ramic has been working hard to push information about the floods to her friends and colleagues, urging people to donate to Våra Barn, which is focusing on helping children in the area. 
 
"I was really surprised that it took such a long time before the media showed any interest. Especially so close in Europe, where there are so many people concerned."
 
Indeed, 60,000 refugees arrived in Sweden in 1994 from the war-torn region. By the end of the devastating war, Sweden had given refuge to more than 100,000 people, most of them Bosnian.
 
 
"That's when I came up," the Bosnian-Swede said. "And what's happening down there now is reminding people of the war. People are having to build their homes from scratch."
 
Serbian-Swede Darko Draskovic has urged his McKinsey colleagues to donate money. With colleagues in Zagreb, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Stockholm, they aim to raise $100,000 in the coming weeks.
 
"Thousands of people have lost their homes and are living in stadiums," he explained.
 
"And people have also lost their animal feedstock and crop, which is their main source of income. Just in this area, the agricultural loss is believed to be at over €1 billion." 
 

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Feeling "huge frustration" at not being able to help, he also called on contacts in the Serbian business community to provide help in terms of food and financial resources. 
 
The Balkan immigrant population is one of Sweden's largest. Last year, an integration report found that Balkan refugees were faring quite well almost two decades after immigration peaked in 1994. Seven out of ten refugees were in employment 20 years later, although figures were gloomier for the less-educated.
 
Famous Swedes with Bosnian heritage include footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Liberal Party politician Jasenko Selimovic.
 
For information on how to donate, click here.

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