Bosnian Muslim refugees, who had earlier reached camps in Hungary, yesterday recounted horrific stories of how they had been forced from their villages in Serbian 'ethnic cleansing' operations in Bosnia and trapped on sealed trains for days. One woman gave birth on a train. Others spoke of rape, torture and murder by Serbian militiamen in the villages they left behind. All gave harrowing accounts of seven-day journeys, crammed 100 at a time into carriages with little to eat.
The five foreign ministers of the so-called Central European Initiative, including the three most affected by the refugee crisis - Austria, Italy and Hungary - appealed to the UN Security Council to end the war in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia- Herzegovina, saying two million people had now been driven from their homes. UN-controlled security zones must be set up urgently to prevent the expulsion of Muslims and allow all refugees to return home, the ministers said in Vienna. They announced that Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia had joined the regional grouping.
The problem is that Bosnia's refugees, mainly Muslims fleeing the Serbian 'ethnic cleansing', are forced to cross Croatia, itself struggling to house and feed its own refugees from its war with Serbia.
The train allowed into Austria was one of three carrying a total of some 6,000 people earlier stranded on the border between Croatia and Slovenia. A batch of wounded refugees got off in Graz while the rest, including women and many old people disembarked in silence in Vienna to be housed at a nearby exhibition centre. Another of the packed trains stranded in Croatia would be allowed through to Italy, Rome announced. Klaus Kinkel, the German foreign minister, said he was 'deeply dismayed' by the refugees' plight and offered to lift current restrictions and allow an undisclosed number in.
Austria and Italy, who had initially refused to take in any more ex-Yugoslav refugees, relented on Friday night.
The tragedy of the Bosnian war was also evident yesterday in Sarajevo as more than 100 weeping children, many of them orphans, left the battered city in two buses with a UN armoured escort. They headed first for the Croatian port of Split, and were to be flown on to Italy.
'We have no food. I don't need much but my son must eat, so he must go,' one crying mother said as she waved goodbye to her nine-year-old son. A three-party Bosnian ceasefire brokered by Lord Carrington is due to go into effect at 6pm local time today, but scepticism reigned in Sarajevo, where past truces have been measurable only in casualties.
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