UK fails to keep refugee promise

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN closed a centre for Bosnian refugees just weeks before John Major responded to television pictures and ordered the evacuation of wounded Muslims and their families from Sarajevo.

The shutting of the arrivals centre in Chertsey, Surrey, was caused by the failure of the Home Office to honour a promise made last year that it would provide sanctuary to 1,000 former inmates of Serb 'concentration' camps and their families - between 4,000 and 5,000 Bosnians in all.

Nick Scott-Flynn of the British Refugee Council, who co-ordinates 'Project Bosnia' for the Home Office, said that as of last week just 700 people had been given sanctuary in Britain under the arrangement and no one from the Government was trying to identify others to take the remaining places. As a result, funds have been cut and staff at a second centre in Dewsbury, south Yorkshire, have been told that it too may close.

The 5,000 refugee places were promised and six Home Office-funded centres were opened last autumn, after a public outcry against a government decision to impose visa restrictions on Bosnia.

But it has been applied inflexibly. This has already led to tragedy and, aid workers predict, may do so again. Hamdija Suhonjic came to Britain after being rescued from a detention camp. The Home Office told him that his wife, Safija, could join him but his two adult daughters - Azra and Mirzeta - could not. Safija refused to leave Bosnia without her daughters and in May she and Mirzeta were captured by Serbs, raped and murdered.