Croatian family can stay in UK

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MINISTERS yesterday had a change of heart and agreed that a Croatian woman and her two children who had fled the war in Sarajevo could remain in Britain, writes Heather Mills.

Last month the Home Office told Mira Litobac that she was to be deported to France - even though her sister, with whom she was seeking refuge, lived in London and she had no family in France.

Immigration officials said that she should have sought political asylum across the Channel because she had spent three hours there on her way to Dover. Officials had invoked the 'third-country rule' under which refugees are expected to claim asylum in the first safe nation they reach.

The plight of Mrs Litobac and her two sons, aged one and seven, was highlighted by the Independent when the Refugee Council accused government ministers of reneging on a promise to look sympathetically on those fleeing the Bosnian war.

The three fled Sarajevo for Croatia at the start of the war when Mrs Litobac's husband was conscripted into the army in Bosnia.

Her escape from the former Yugoslavia was made possible by Jerry Hartigan, a Northampton-based lawyer, who - acting for her sister in Britain - drove to Croatia and brought her back.

Yesterday a statement from the Home Office said that after officials had interviewed Mrs Litobac again, ministers had agreed to give her exceptional leave to enter the UK while her asylum claim is considered.