Letters: Britain should back French call to reinforce safe havens

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From Mr Philip Rudge

Sir: The failure of the safe haven policy in Bosnia raises difficult and urgent questions. If the international community and the EU states in particular are unable to guarantee the safety of parts of the Bosnian population on their own territory, how and where are these people to find protection?

Member states of the European Union recently adopted a resolution concerning burden sharing in the event of a large number of displaced persons needing asylum. The co-operative sense behind this agreement is helpful in the present situation in Bosnia, and can underpin other initiatives. Three steps could be attempted now.

First, consultations should start with UNHCR, as the UN agency with the moral force and logistical capacity, on new measures to intervene on behalf of the most vulnerable. Second, the Croatian authorities should be approached to re-open their borders for refugees from Bosnia, so as to prevent the situation of large numbers of refugees being stranded in sight of that frontier. Naturally, the Croatian authorities would need reassurances concerning modalities of transport and the acceptance of refugees by EU states. Thirdly, inside Bosnia ways should be urgently examined to allow persons with valid reasons to depart to an EU state.

To protect refugees is a positive act of peace and humanitarianism and a demonstration of our own commitment to human rights in Europe. Their need is great, and the burden upon us, if shared among states, is entirely manageable.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Rudge

General Secretary

ECRE: European Council on refugees and exiles

London, W1

18 July