Geneva talks on refugee crisis

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The Independent Online
AN URGENT meeting is to be held in Geneva on the refugee crisis caused by fighting in Yugoslavia. More than two million people have been displaced, 75 per cent from Bosnia, and many countries have said they can no longer cope with the strain. Some have all but closed their borders.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadaka Ogata, is flying to London tomorrow to finalise arrangements.

The conference would aim to find a mechanism for international burden sharing, so that states which have few refugees carry some of the financial load. Co-operation between European governments has been minimal, refugee officials say.

London is also the site for peace talks today between the warring factions in Bosnia. Lord Carrington, who chairs the EC peace conference, will meet leaders of Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, also begins a four-day visit to the former Yugoslav republics.

Despite endless diplomatic activity, Europe's response to the crisis has been desultory. Officials say that in many countries visa policy varies from day to day. Britain does not maintain visa restrictions, but has admitted only 1,300 asylum seekers. In addition to those displaced by fighting, ethnic minorities have been evicted from their homes by Croat and Serb forces - between 10,000 and 20,000 refugees a day have fled from Bosnia. The conference would also aim to raise more funds for relief.

In May, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asked for dollars 142m ( pounds 74m) in contributions, but has received only dollars 51m. 'Much, much more' is needed, Sylvana Foa, of UNHCR, said yesterday.

The worst problems are in the Yugoslav states, including Serbia and Croatia, estimated to have 400,000 and 650,000 refugees. Croatia has said it cannot handle the flood and will start sending new arrivals to Italy, Hungary and Slovenia, which says it cannot take any more.

Hungary said yesterday it would not allow the entry of Bosnians travelling through Croatia. It is housing perhaps 100,000 Yugoslav refugees, a Hungarian diplomat said.

UN turns deaf ear, page 12

Leading article, letters, page 20