Letter: Talking to Milosevic

Sir: While Justin Huggler rightly points out the problems of vulnerable people in Europe this winter, ("700,000 Europeans face a cruel winter under canvas", 25 November), it is disappointing to see that the needs in Serbia and Montenegro have again been ignored. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia currently has the largest refugee and displaced population in Europe.

Even before the Kosovo crisis, Yugoslavia had the largest number of refugees following the conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia; there were over 500,000 identified refugees living in sports halls and schools with no privacy, the clothes they stood up in, and no hope for the future. At that time there were over 300 humanitarian organisations in Bosnia, but only 27 present in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. International donors and the world's media ignored the refugee situation at the time, and it seems that history is repeating itself.

The Kosovo crisis then saw a further 230,000 people displaced into Serbia, which receives very little media attention or funding, and whose civilian population has suffered hugely from the effects of sanctions and recent armed conflicts. As an impartial and neutral organisation, the Red Cross believes assistance must be given to all those affected by conflict, whatever the circumstances.

The International Red Cross, working with the local branches of the Yugoslav Red Cross, is providing hot meals, food parcels and hygiene kits and providing direct assistance to 100,000 beneficiaries in Serbia and Montenegro.


Director General

British Red Cross

London SW1