Yugoslav refugee quotas refused

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The Independent Online
THE UNITED Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called yesterday for states to open their borders to Yugoslav refugees, but got scant response.

Time, said Sadako Ogata, was running out. She told representatives of more than 50 countries meeting in Geneva: 'If we do not act immediately and forcefully on both political and humanitarian fronts, we may find ourselves stranded with an open-ended relief programme and a massive permanent refugee problem in the heart of Europe.'

The UN's World Health Organisation delegate, Sir Donald Acheson, also warned that with winter approaching there was a 'real risk of catastrophe'.

Mrs Ogata spoke of the need for 'all states within or outside the region to provide temporary protection' to people fleeing what was Yugoslavia. It was a question of providing 'safe havens', perhaps for no more than a few months.

Her belief that the return of people to their own homes as soon as possible is the best solution in the long run was endorsed by Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, Britain's Overseas Development Minister. She spoke of encouraging people to remain 'as close as possible to their own homes'.

Germany said it would take another 5,000 refugees, but received virtually no support for its idea that other EC countries should take quotas. The French idea of safe havens in Bosnia and Croatia received backing from Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia.

By the end of the the day, more than dollars 116m ( pounds 61m) in additional aid had been promised. Lady Chalker said Britain would contribute an extra pounds 5m, above the pounds 23.3m already given. Those promises mean the UN High Commission for Refugees has more than the dollars 170m it asked for some months ago. But since then the refugees have more than doubled.

Mrs Ogata made clear she was anxious to broaden the debate to include a political settlement and the need to halt atrocities.

She warned that 'displacement seems to be the goal, not just the result, of the war, with the motive clearly being ethnic relocation'. It could, she added, be a chilling omen for situations farther east.

Leading article, page 20

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