Warning of new refugee flood

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THE exodus from Bosnia-Herzegovina could be swollen by more than 1 million refugees if the international community does not act quickly, officials warned yesterday. There are serious difficulties in supplying displaced people in Bosnia, there is still fighting going on and winter is approaching, writes Andrew Marshall.

'We are already assisting 2.5 million people (from Bosnia) and we are terrified at the way this conflict is evolving,' said Jose Maria Mendiluce, special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In addition to those outside Yugoslavia, there are 334,000 Bosnians in Croatia, 210,000 in Serbia, 41,000 in Montenegro, 29,000 in Macedonia and 60,000 in Slovenia. But there are more than half a million displaced Bosnians in the republic itself, many of them lacking basic supplies and concentrated in besieged cities.

'There are 100,000 civilians in Tuzla, 380,000 in Sarajevo, 250,000 in Bihac, perhaps 70,000 in Gorazde, many more in smaller places. More than one million might leave,' Mr Mendiluce added.

The UNHCR chief, Sadako Ogata, yesterday blamed all sides in the Bosnian conflict for deliberately precipitating the refugee outflow by removing ethnic minorities from their homes. 'The flight seems to be not just the result but the goal of the fighting,' she wrote in an article in the German weekly Die Zeit. 'The vast majority of refugees were brutally forced out of their houses by those damnable practices known as 'ethnic cleansing'.'

An emergency international conference is to be held next week on the crisis, the worst in Europe since the Second World War.