Letter: Yugoslav refugees: a problem to share

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The Independent Online
sir: The Prime Minister underestimates the readiness of the British people to respond generously to human misery of the kind now overwhelming Bosnia. The sight of the 68 victims yesterday plucked by air from Bosnia to British hospitals revealed starkly the limitations of the Government's contention that it is in the best interests of all refugees to be kept close to their homeland. One of the main purposes and, so far, achievements of the post-

war movement for closer integration in Europe has been to 'clasp Germany in a European embrace'. Recently the rest of Europe, and the UK in particular, has been seeking German help in resolving its economic difficulties. Meanwhile Germany has been shouldering almost all the burden of the Yugoslav refugee problem, reportedly sheltering some 200,000 people. We have seen on our TV screens the strains this has put on the democratic nature of German, and particularly eastern German, society.

It would not only be morally right but also politically wise for Britain to respond quickly and generously to the German government's request that we should share directly the burden of handling the problem of refugees from the former Yugoslavia. If we do not, it would not be surprising, given the history of this century, if the German people turned away from the concept of European co- operation toward altogether more dangerous paths.

John Major and Douglas Hurd have spoken eloquently, and rightly, of Britain's proper place being at the heart of Europe. That heart is now sorely troubled, and it will be Britain's shame and folly if the UK presidency of the EC offers no more imaginative leadership than the turning of a greyly frozen shoulder.

Yours faithfully,




16 September