LETTER : Help for Bosnian refugees

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The Independent Online
From Mr David Bull and

Mr Nick Hardwick

Sir: As agencies concerned with the protection of human rights, and with the rights of refugees, we hope very much that the Government will heed Andew Marr's advice ("Taking the sting out of Bosnia", 3 August) and respond positively to the appeal of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to accept more Bosnian refugees.

It is abundantly clear to us that the policy of creating so-called "safe havens" - under which the international community was meant to ensure the protection of victims of the conflict on Bosnian territory - has failed, and failed miserably. In the process, thousands of men and women have been murdered, tortured and raped, and many more are missing. The flow of refugees out of Srebenica and Zepa has imposed an intolerable burden on the remaining "safe havens", and on Croatia - which has already admitted over 400,000 refugees. If more men and women are not to become victims of such gross human rights abuse - or to die of hunger - this pressure must be relieved by the rapid transfer of refugees to other countries.

In short, the international community must now act quickly to develop an alternative policy, based on the principle of international burden- sharing, that recognises the protection needs of those fleeing or trapped in Bosnia. As a first step, and as a lead to the rest of the international community, the Government should respond quickly and generously to the call of UNHCR. The number of refugee admissions being called for is relatively small, and the expertise and mechanisms to deal with their needs are in place.

Yours faithfully,

David Bull


Amnesty International

British Section

Nick Hardwick

Chief Executive

Refugee Council

London, EC1

3 August