Muslim refugees evicted

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The Independent Online
MORE than 10,000 refugees are again on the move in central Bosnia, proving that 'ethnic cleansing' continues despite the latest ceasefires between Serbs and Muslims and Croats and Muslims, says the Zenica representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The situation on the ground here is the complete opposite of that envisaged in the Vance- Owen peace plan, which requires refugees to return to their place of origin.

Refugees in Zenica, 7 miles (12km) north-east of the main British base at Vitez, said that in the last few days they had been evicted for the second time. Last year they were forced to flee from Serbian-controlled areas; now they are being driven out of areas controlled by Croatian forces.

They are heading for Muslim- held Zenica, whose pre-war population of 150,000 has swollen by 40,000 since the fighting began. The authorities in Zenica say they cannot cope with many more. British forces in Vitez are standing by for another Muslim exodus, to the west of the town. Over the last few weeks the Serbs have been letting Muslims out - about 300 every Monday.

'Over 10,000 people are on the move in one way or the other,' said Jorge Dela Motta, the UNHCR chief in central Bosnia. 'They are in surrounding villages, in basements, with friends, on the roads, in woods. Despite the ceasefire there is an obvious covert operation going on - ethnic cleansing.'

The latest round of evictions by Croats seem to have been persuasive rather than violent. One Muslim man said his family wanted to leave and the Croats pledged to 'secure the way to get you to your people'. Another refugee said: 'No one was killed but people were sent out to dig the trenches.' Five were later killed in these frontline excavations.