HL Deb 01 July 1992 vol 538 cc851-68

8.31 p.m.

Lord Hylton rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements are being made throughout Europe for refugees who have already left the former Yugoslavia and what relief and aid they and others are providing to displaced people within that area.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise with some diffidence to ask this Question and to open our short debate. I say that because I personally have never visited the former Yugoslavia, whereas some of your Lordships are no doubt closely acquainted with that part of the world. We are faced, however, with urgent humanitarian issues and I am glad that the recent Starred Question that was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, drew attention to them. The noble Lord has told me that he regrets that he is unable to be here tonight. I regret it also and perhaps I may add that I am just a little amazed that it appears that there has not been a full-scale debate in this House on the whole problematic situation in the former Yugoslavia since trouble began there last summer.

On 21st May this year the English press quoted Pope John Paul II speaking of: A terrifying drama, such as Europe has not seen since the end of the Second World War".

He urged People of goodwill to help those suffering because of the iniquitous fratricidal war that is bloodying Bosnia-Herzegovina".

We know that there have been heavy casualties, largely among the civilian population. They have included observers and aid workers of the United Nations, the European Community and the International Red Cross, some of whom have been killed and wounded. On 2nd June the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, acting jointly with UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, issued an emergency report. This followed the temporary forced withdrawal of the UNHCR and International Red Cross personnel from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The report stated that 1.5 million people have been obliged to flee their homes in former Yugoslavia since June 1991. Of these, nearly a quarter of a million found refuge in other European countries.

The Tablet magazine of 20th June described some very real difficulties. Because camps in Croatia and Slovenia are hopelessly overcrowded, Bosnian and other refugees were arriving in Austria. Some were even coming by train from Greece, which refused to accept fugitives, but gave them rail tickets to Vienna. In Vienna, the Minister of the Interior had made it clear that Austria could not go on admitting refugees. I should add that Austria has in fact been most generous, contributing food and medicines to a value of £7.5 million. Germany is reported to be turning back applicants, including even the wives and children of Bosnians living and working in Germany. The situation is said to be similar in Switzerland. I am glad to say that in Britain the situation is a little more encouraging since the Home Office seems to be taking a sympathetic line towards Yugoslays who are unable or afraid to return to their country.

What information do Her Majesty's Government have about refugees from Yugoslavia in the rest of Europe? At what rate are they still arriving? Are they thought to have come mainly for family reunions, and on those grounds, are they expected to remain where they are permanently? Whose responsibility are they —apart, of course, from the host country and the UNHCR? Which European Community institutions have so far considered these problems, and with what result? Do Her Majesty's Government consider that the Council of Europe and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe have a part to play and, if so, how? What co-ordination is being attempted between voluntary bodies in Europe, concerned first with the reception of refugees and secondly with relief and development.

I come now to the much bigger question of those internally displaced within Yugoslavia. The report already quoted showed nearly 1.3 million displaced persons. Of these, over half a million came from Croatia, and the remainder from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Again, at that time over half a million were located in Croatia, while some 363,000 were displaced inside Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia had taken in 315,000 and Slovenia, Montenegro and Macedonia accommodated smaller numbers. I think that it is likely that these huge figures have increased somewhat during the month of June. What information do Her Majesty's Government have on that.

It is a sad fact that we have to note the most appalling violations of human rights. Fighting has been conducted with complete disregard for the Geneva conventions. Agreed truces have been broken time and again. Civilians and non-combatants have been put to hard, unpaid labour, beaten, tortured and murdered, while their houses were looted and destroyed. Abuses extend outside the immediate zone of fighting to areas such as Kosovo and Vojvodina.

I am indebted to the report of the British Section of the International Society for Human Rights, dated 29th May 1992, following the return of its observers from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The document carefully details several dozen incidents between mid-March and late May, where the minority inhabitants of Serb-controlled towns and villages were forced out, sometimes to be replaced by displaced Serbs from elsewhere. The victims varied in number from two or three people, up to groups of several thousand. There appears to have been a deliberate policy of creating ethnically pure areas. All minorities have suffered—not just the Croats and the Moslems. Soldiers in the Yugoslav National Army and the Serbian militias have enforced that policy. During April and May of this year, there also appear to have been consistent attacks by Serb military units on relief workers and aid convoys.

Does the information available to Her Majesty's Government confirm what I have just been saying, and have there been similar abuses on the Croatian side? In this context, can the noble Baroness comment on the significance of "pink areas"? I understand these to be parts of Croatia with Serbian populations, adjoining but immediately outside the United Nations protected areas. Will the Government and their allies make common cause to ensure that the resources and instructions of the UN peace-keeping forces are such that ethnic purging ceases immediately, at least within the UN protected areas, but if possible everywhere? Will the Government go further and seek the sending of UN observers to Kosovo and Vojvodina, where the human and civil rights of the majority, in the one case, and of the minority in the other, are in doubt.

It is certain that the immediate situation of the displaced people is most difficult. Croatia and Slovenia are at saturation point and the same may be true of Serbia. Tented camps may well be needed. Those, of course, will require special public health measures to prevent epidemics, and will offer no real solution for the coming winter. What can be done to provide prefabricated houses.

The UNHCR reports that the vast majority of those fleeing from Bosnia were women and children. UNICEF reckoned that 200,000 children under the age of six needed special foods and medical help. Co-ordination and team work between the UN agencies has been good. The UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO made a joint appeal for funds for 1992 totalling more than 174 million dollars. By the end of May contributions had been made or pledged in excess of 32 million dollars, with further help in kind. Can the Government say whether there has been progress since then.

Some imaginative work is already in hand. In March, UNICEF launched a programme to make children aware of the dangers they face from mines and other explosives. A framework for psycho-social rehabilitation for war-scarred children is under way. Traumatic stress also affects adults. Their needs and training requirements are being assessed. WHO is organising medical help through a network of European and Yugoslav cities.

I hope that I have indicated something of the urgent difficulties facing both refugees from the former Yugoslavia and those internally displaced inside that country. Well-organised and well-funded help is needed now. Many areas and groups can be reached, even if fully adequate relief is not yet possible for the battered inhabitants of Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. As regards Sarajevo, I should emphasise the importance of supply by road. It has been estimated that the city needs 190 tonnes of food per day, and it is difficult to supply that much by air transport.

There is a real challenge, first to Europe, and then to the rest of the world and perhaps especially to Serbs and Croats living in other parts of the world. Because of the size of the challenge, I particularly welcome the visit which Mrs. Ogata of the UNHCR, will be making to the whole area between 6th and 9th July. I invite later speakers and the noble Baroness the Minister to give us their thoughts on the longer-term needs for resettlement, reconstruction and the rebuilding of shattered systems of education. The aim must surely be to enable the maximum number of displaced people to return to their ancestral homes. Such an aim will, no doubt, have to be tempered with realism. In some cases, there may be scope for voluntary and agreed exchanges of population, as happened between Turkey and Greece in the 1920s.

Both in the short term and looking further ahead, I believe that there is great scope for the expertise and compassion that is available in these islands. The surgical and other skills of Northern Ireland could be most useful. British knowledge of the rehabilitation of refugees and torture victims has a part to play. British military forces, acting in conjunction with the Western European Union and NATO, may play a constructive part in coming to the aid of the civil authorities. In this context, I welcome the presence in Croatia of our Army medical unit.

Our administrative abilities and wide range of specialised voluntary bodies have seldom been more needed. I trust that we shall all rise to the occasion. Above all, the international community has a duty to ensure that the conflicts that have raged since the summer of 1991 are the last to afflict the Balkans in the present era.

I mentioned earlier the possibility of sending UN observers to areas as yet unmarred by fighting. I should like to see that idea expanded by the creation of a multi-disciplinary listening and conciliation service. Such a body would listen to ethnic, religious and minority problems, before they erupt into physical violence. I trust that it would help to defuse some explosions before they occurred.

I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply and take this opportunity to thank all those contributing to our debate.

8.46 p.m.

Lord Wedgwood

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, pointed out, the situation in the Balkans remains extremely serious, despite the hopeful signals received from Sarajevo this week. Based on the actual figures of displaced persons and refugees in what was formerly Yugoslavia, it is possible that some 1.5 million will not be able to return to their native ancestral homes. With this and further ethnic cleansing, the former republic's neighbours are faced with the colossal task of receiving enormous numbers of distressed victims of the warring factions.

It is inevitable that the spill-over will take place into countries beyond those neighbours, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, pointed out, affecting all of us in Europe. As Britain is assuming the European presidency, is it not time for this country to show the type of leadership for which we have an outstanding reputation in the international arena, or will we reduce the proud and majestic British lion, who stands tall among the stars of Europe, to some clawless tame animal? Are we a nation that has finally succumbed to symbolism, or can we still act on the realities of leadership, with all the choices and risks involved.

With this ever enlarging situation in the Balkans, one can only hope that with the assumption of the European presidency, the Government will react to all of this by first creating reasonable foreign policy objectives to avert the suffering and to bring stability. One reasonable foreign policy objective must be to force the warring parties to let all the refugees return to their natural and rightful homes. An attempt to achieve this objective presents considerable dangers. History and experience will show that those dangers could go beyond the internal boundaries of the former Yugoslavia. The stability of its neighbours and those beyond must certainly come into question. The duration of any involvement must also be a primary concern. We certainly do not need to recreate the problems of Northern Ireland and the extent of the emergency within the Province.

Taking into consideration these two vital elements, there are a number of choices available for intervention at this time. These choices vary considerably, but I believe lead us to an inevitable conclusion. The first would be to send a preventive force into Macedonia. This would come in conjunction with the international recognition of Macedonia as a separate state.

The objective would be as a deterrent to any foreign or Serbian intervention. That of course deals with only a fraction of the overall problem. It may save the Macedonians but could further ignite problems elsewhere. A second option would be to increase United Nations forces in the four protective areas within Croatia. It is my understanding that the capabilities of the mixed assortment of troops deployed for that task have been the subject of much criticism. It seems that we are courting disaster in deploying a peacekeeping force without the ability to retaliate and with insufficient professionalism.

Those forces need the support of professional infantry. Although other countries in Europe have elements of well-trained infantry, it is the British infantry that is the best trained and most experienced for such an operation, with the right equipment. An infusion of a professional fighting force would set an example to other United Nations participants and provide the necessary deterrent to the warring parties, thus preventing further ethnic clearance.

Another option relates to the United Nations sanctions policy. For those who favour that policy, it must be apparent that the United Nations resolution that all member states should police the policy is somewhat naive. A member state in Africa, for example, could commit itself to that policy and ban all shipments from its ports. However, what happens between those ports and the port of Bar is another matter. The United States is prepared to deploy a naval force in that area, but I question who is policing the port of Bar which is the sole port for the Serbs and Montenegrans. A naval presence is essential to establish the credibility of that policy. There has been speculation about international inspection teams at entry points into Serbia and from Serbia or Croatia into Bosnia and Herzegovina. Perhaps those teams could be backed by the threat of an air interdiction. Today we also understand that the United States is prepared to provide air support. There are a couple of relevant issues here. It was comparatively easy to use air power in that manner during the Gulf War. The open nature of the desert lands lends itself to that, but destruction of entry routes and bridges in the mountains of Bosnia is a different matter.

A history of inter-racial struggles has created a nation of hoarders who will use the terrain and their own ingenuity to make the task impossible for inspection teams. Article 42 of the United Nations charter provides the opportunity for the use of force in a demonstration role, using air, sea or land forces. If we selected a target, such as the air base outside Belgrade (Batinica), we could mount a strike to ground part of the air force without excessive, or any, casualties, bringing home to the Serb peoples the international community's determination to arrest disorder in the Balkans before it spreads further.

The debate addresses a serious humanitarian problem for which the only solution appears to be one of intervention. The international community has identified Sarajevo as the prime example of where a safe haven can be created. Expert military strategists who have studied that area will explain the complexities of the terrain. It is possible that with some extra support the Canadian forces now being deployed in Sarajevo could secure the immediate area of the airport.

With modern weaponry, using automatic weapons with a range of up to 1,800 metres, and positioning troops with given fields of fire, that force, which would represent roughly an infantry battalion, could cover a radius of 3,000 metres, the approximate area of the airport.

Two problems present themselves immediately as we might discover in respect of the Hercules now on its way to Sarajevo. An airlift of supplies can arrive at the airport, but who will ensure their satisfactory transport on into Sarajevo? Several infantry battalions should be involved in that task, especially when one considers the two areas adjacent to the airport (Dobrinja and Ilidza) which are held by warring factions and pose a threat to any safe passage.

Secondly, as Sarajevo is surrounded by high ground of a radius of approximately 30,000 metres it would be necessary to deploy a further 10 infantry battalions onto that ground, using the equation of one battalion for every 3,000 metre radius. Finally, to remove the threat of indirect weapons, (mortars and artillery) it would be necessary to dominate that high ground with forward observation officers and a combination of sound-ranging equipment, mortar-locating radar and other devices, together with forward air controllers to direct ground attack aircraft accurately, should that become necessary. To include the active patrolling of a demilitarised zone of some 20 kilometres, a total task force of about 30,000 troops would be required.

Experts from the Royal Institute of International Affairs agree that it would take from at least six months to one year for sanctions to bite. We can expect the violence to continue and the suffering to increase. Is it not a reasonable foreign policy objective to support a stand-off in the Balkans? The Government should be commended for their continued support of NATO. Recent events have shown how vital is the Euro-American partnership. It must be maintained. But when will the new British lion of Europe provide the voice of reasoned leadership once more, rather than the timidity of what passes for near appeasement.

The Cold War has disappeared, thanks to the resolve of our NATO allies, and displays of courage like that of the former Prime Minister my noble friend Lady Thatcher who, in the face of a tinpot dictator, deployed our professional troops to maintain international order in the South Atlantic, thereby sending an indirect signal to the Warsaw Pact that we would not stand for aggression in the future. This is not a time for timidity and appeasement, but for courage, resolution and right decisions.

8.57 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am sure that, not for the first time, the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for raising such an important humanitarian issue in the thoughtful, reflective way in which he did tonight. I am sure that the noble Lord will also agree that if we are paying tributes during such a debate then we want to put on record in this House our appreciation of the valiant work done by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in the midst of all the difficulties and, indeed, that of all the personnel of the United Nations and the United Nations Commission for Refugees, and others, who have been working in impossibly difficult circumstances.

The noble Lord called for a wider debate on the issues. This obviously is not the time to have the widest debate but I agree that it is impossible to look at how we should respond to the symptoms without looking at the causes. I hope therefore that the House will forgive me if this evening I dwell a little upon the wider issues at stake.

The international community has been shocked by the speed at which Yugoslavia has disintegrated into a series of warring republics and by the anarchic cycle of violence that appears endless despite numerous United Nations and European Community-sponsored ceasefires and peace initiatives. That has all been a severe test of the political will and cohesion of our increasingly integrated European Community in dealing with political and humanitarian issues on our own doorstep. It is as yet, I believe, far from clear how well we have together passed that test or, indeed, whether we have passed it at all. It has taken the courage and vision of President Mitterrand's brave visit to Sarajevo to achieve a breakthrough, with, I understand, the arrival today of French commandos to help secure the airport. The French have done much to redeem the credibility of the values of effectiveness and compassion we like to proclaim as basic to our European way of life. The task is now to build on the lead which they have given.

The fighting between Croatia and Serbia which so extensively spilled over into the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina has put that republic into the grips of a bloody civil war between the Serbs, on the one side, and the Moslems and their Croat allies on the other. The escalating conflict has claimed thousands of lives and contributed markedly to the rising tide of refugees forced to flee the fighting.

For Yugoslavia, the writing was on the wall some years ago with the fighting in Kosovo. There was no shortage of concerned voices predicting trouble. Sadly, this advance warning seems to have been lost on the governments of Europe. It is only since serious conflict began that the European Community has belatedly made numerous efforts to try to prevent the outbreak of total civil war in the former republics of Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, as we have seen, these attempts at mediation, culminating in the general peace conference chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on 3rd September 1991 and the deployment of peace monitors came too late and failed to halt the violence. It was the impotence of Europe which led to the increased United Nations activity.

By Resolution 713 on 25th September 1991 the UN Security Council first became involved with the imposition of the general arms embargo and support for the general peace conference under the auspices of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the European Community's special representative. Whatever the disappointments and difficulties encountered by the noble Lord in his dedicated efforts, it is to a great extent thanks to his characteristic and indefatigable commitment that the peace conference may yet play a useful role in promoting a negotiated settlement when the different sides eventually decide to negotiate.

The inability of the European Community to secure a ceasefire, first in Croatia and now in Bosnia, was to a large degree because of the determination of the protagonists to continue fighting until such time as their objectives had been achieved. In relation to Serbia, this entails taking control of Serb-dominated areas of Bosnia and Croatia, while the Croats are fighting to assert their influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the event of that republic being carved up between the warring factions.

Under the terms of Security Council Resolution 757 on 30th May this year the United Nations has now imposed sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro, which it has blamed for much of the violence. The UN had attributed the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina to the aggressive policies of Serbia's president and to his support for the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, a controversial report issued by the UN Secretary General on 1st June this year blamed both the Serbs and the Croats for the violence.

The package of sanctions now includes an extension of the embargo on arms sales, a ban on all sporting links, oil and trade, the freezing of all international assets and the suspension of air links. Medical and humanitarian food supplies have been exempted. The sanctions imposed by UN Resolution 757 were described by the Foreign Secretary on 2nd June as: One of the most comprehensive series of measures ever adopted by the UN". The immediate goals of UN sanctions are to end the fighting, creating conditions on the ground which will allow the UN to implement its relief programme and to demobilise the Serbian irregulars and other nationalist militias. That will allow the return to their homes of all those displaced about whom we have heard tonight.

It is to be hoped that sanctions and the emergence of such conditions will help to bring an end to the current conflict and allow a negotiated settlement of all outstanding disputes between the former Yugoslavian republics. However, it has to be recognised that there are those who fear that sanctions will simply inflame Serb nationalism and precipitate military action on the part of the United Nations.

It is powerfully argued that UN Resolution 757 has left the door open for United Nations military action to end the fighting. It seems that the United Nations, in the face of recent conflicts such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the current fighting in Yugoslavia, is moving towards a more interventionist humanitarian phase in its history.

With reference to the crises in the former republics of Yugoslavia, the United Nations Secretary General has indicated that United Nations military intervention could be undertaken if the Security Council members vote for such action. Similarly, the United States Government appear to be in the process of preparing for a US humanitarian relief operation which could well involve the US military. However, I understand that the President of the United States made a strong statement today playing down eagerness to use force. The use of force is also being discussed by the Western European Union.

Against that background, the Prime Minister has reacted cautiously to these developments. In a recent interview for the newspaper, Le Monde, he highlighted the inherent dangers of military intervention and the fear that the intervening force would get sucked into a full-scale war. Nevertheless, the Lisbon summit, even before the surprise Mitterrand initiative, agreed that it was unable to exclude the possibility that a United Nations military operation might be necessary to support a humanitarian relief operation in the event of the conflict continuing unabated and the United Nations agreeing to that course of action.

On 8th June, the Security Council adopted Resolution 758 which empowered the United Nations Secretary General to deploy military observers to Sarajevo to try to organise the withdrawal of heavy military equipment from the city. This resolution also allows the United Nations protection force in Yugoslavia to deliver humanitarian relief supplies to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to secure Sarajevo airport to achieve this end. That is a prospect which we hope has become more realisable in recent days since the Mitterrand mission and the arrival of the French commandos with, I understand, also pilot food distribution now beginning and with further planes on the way.

According to Resolution 758, the deployment of UN troops to achieve these aims will be contingent upon, an effective and durable ceasefire in Sarajevo. It would be helpful to hear tonight from the Minister how UN arrangements are progressing in the wake of the French initiatives.

The refugee crisis in Yugoslavia, as we have powerfully heard this evening, is deepening by the day, according to the emergency report issued jointly by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. More than 75 per cent. of those fleeing the fighting in the former Yugoslavian republics are women and children.

The report states that while negotiators are attempting to affect a ceasefire long enough for humanitarian relief operations to be channelled through Sarajevo airport, food shortages and fear of the violence escalating are precipitating the flight of families from areas as yet not directly affected by the fighting. As we have heard, the report indicates that 1.5 million people in the former republics of Yugoslavia have been displaced with nearly 250,000 seeking temporary refuge in neighbouring countries.

UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation have emphasised that while the number of victims is growing daily the ability of host communities to help them is declining. The House is, of course, aware that in answer to a Starred Question on relief aid to the former Yugoslavian republics on 10th June 1992 the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, stated that since November the UK has given £9.7 million to the Red Cross and the UN humanitarian agencies to help those displaced by the fighting. But a joint appeal by UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation issued on 22nd May for 174 million dollars by 30th May drew pledges totalling only 32 million US dollars. It would be helpful to be told tonight the level of funds that that appeal has now reached.

As I have indicated, Resolution 757 arguably leaves the way open for the use of force at a later date. The willingness of those of us on these Benches to support such inevitably hazardous action, with all its dangers and uncertainties, not least for civilians, would depend upon the degree to which the action had been fully discussed, weighed and approved by the UN Security Council. Such action, if deemed necessary, would be fraught with grave potential. It would therefore have to have clear objectives and the full support of the UN as a whole. There must be no question of the United Nations being subcontracted by an unrepresentative few member states, however powerful those states.

The Serbs—not all, for there are many Serbs who are as appalled by events as any of us in this House tonight—must take responsibility for much of the current fighting. However, they are not the only culprits, as the Secretary General's report has emphasised, and any future settlement will depend upon mutual respect and the safeguarding of all minorities. In the meantime we on these Benches welcome the implementation of sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro and hope that they will help to bring a speedy end to the current human tragedy.

Arising from the points that have been made tonight, it would be extremely helpful if, when she replies, the Minister would deal with the following questions. What is the Government's assessment of the effectiveness of UN sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro? Can the noble Baroness give an indication of whether the United Nations has set a timetable for sanctions to work? Do the Government agree that UN Resolution 757 leaves the door open for the use of force at some future date? Can the noble Baroness confirm that such action would require the full agreement of the Security Council.

Will the Minister advise the House whether the UN has held recent negotiations with representatives from the different sides in this conflict in an attempt to bring about an end to the fighting? Can the noble Baroness advise the House of the latest position as regards the relief effort in Bosnia-Herzegovina and can she indicate what steps the UN is now taking to ensure that humanitarian and medical supplies reach the civilians who are in desperate need of such supplies? Can the noble Baroness confirm the level of funds which has actually been received to date in response to the joint appeal by UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO on 22nd May to raise money for the relief effort.

Can the Minister advise the House of the Government's latest assessment of the refugee crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina? Can she also say what funds the Government, the European Community and the UN are providing to assist with the relief of those displaced by the civil war? What is the latest news of the ceasefire? Can the noble Baroness confirm when the current situation in the former republics of Yugoslavia will next be discussed by the United Nations, and specifically by the European Community? I should assure the House that I have given the Minister notice of these questions.

This debate has been timely and important. There are many lessons to be learnt but I believe that, apart from the test of the effectiveness of the European Community, one of the lessons that none of us can ignore is that we are moving into a state of volatility in world affairs in which we can no longer postpone the priority of establishing effective United Nations methods for dealing with crises in time and not waiting until they have overwhelmed us before the world responds.

9.13 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for raising the issue of the arrangements being made for displaced persons from the former Yugoslav republics. It is a question of deep importance and concern to the Government. I am grateful not only to the noble Lord but also to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and my noble friend Lord Wedgwood for their contributions to this important debate.

The debate has ranged wide. I shall try to answer at least most of the questions that have been put to me tonight. If I err and leave one out I shall write to the noble Lord thereafter.

The tragedy being played out in the former Yugoslav republics is perhaps the greatest instance of human suffering in Europe since the Second World War. Nearly 2 million people have been forced to leave their homes and take refuge either in safe areas in their own countries or in neighbouring states. Thousands more remain trapped in the conflict zones of Bosnia and Croatia, unable to move out of fear for their own safety. They face critical shortages of food, water and other basic supplies. Those civilians who are caught up in the fighting and those who have been displaced are pawns in a very brutal game. We cannot but deplore the blatant disregard for basic humanitarian principles shown by some of the parties to the conflicts—some more than others but nevertheless blatant disregard from time to time on all sides. Certain of the violations of those principles, such as the murder of the senior Red Cross official or the shelling by Serbian irregulars of civilians in the streets of Sarajevo, simply beggar belief.

The United Nations humanitarian agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross have done an outstanding job in seeking to provide assistance to the displaced wherever they can. They have worked against the odds to deliver relief in difficult and often dangerous circumstances. They deserve our fullest support. I can assure your Lordships that the British Government will continue to give it. But to be fully effective the agencies must be able to operate in safety. Otherwise they cannot deliver relief to those displaced persons and refugees about whom the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, spoke so sagely at the beginning of the debate. That is why it is crucial that all the parties in the various areas of the conflict heed the calls in the United Nations resolutions, in the Lisbon summit conclusions and in every gathering, for the creation of security conditions which will allow the safe delivery of desperately needed humanitarian relief.

In this debate there has been some criticism of our not having been able to move forward effectively to relieve the terrible conditions in which the people of the former Yugoslav republics are living. In his speech the noble Lord, Lord Judd, having condemned the lack of action, made it quite clear why it had been so difficult to move forward. I can assure your Lordships that we have been ready at every turn to give aid and to put in the support that was needed. However, we should never do so without regard for the people who have to deliver it. We know from the death of six EC monitors as well as the death of the Red Cross worker, and indeed some of the very painful injuries that others have suffered in carrying out their humanitarian work, that we are putting people at very great risk in order to help save the lives of so many innocent people who are caught up in the civil war.

We have been waiting for a ceasefire for a long while. When the European Council adopted its declaration last weekend it was quite clear from all parties that unless there was a continuation of the ceasefire which had been so much hoped for and which seems partially to be holding at present, we would not be able to carry out all those aspects of humanitarian support that we wished.

My noble friend Lord Wedgwood suggested that we needed major military might to bring about a successful end to the fighting. At the weekend there was the courageous visit of the President of France, President Mitterrand. That was a risky thing to do. We all praised him for doing it. We believe that it may—and I can only say may—have helped, together with all the other measures that have been taken in the interim, to break down the objections to a ceasefire for the time being.

I must say to my noble friend that we have no evidence of breaches of sanctions. We know that the sanctions regime is working and having an effect. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked me about our assessment of those sanctions. I can say to him that they are having a disruptive effect on the Serbian economy. They must now be given time to work. I believe that it is the combination of that and world opinion which is causing the ceasefire to hold, at least in the main, at the present time. There are long petrol queues; in Serbia workers are being sent off early for their summer holidays. There are signs that the sanctions are beginning to work.

Your Lordships will know that in Security Council Resolution 757, paragraph 16, it was decided that the Security Council will: keep under continuous review the measures imposed by paras 4 to 9"— that is, those paragraphs of the resolution detailing the sanctions regime— with a view to considering whether such measures might be suspended or terminated following compliance with the requirements of Security Council Resolution 752"; that is to say, stop fighting and co-operate with the efforts of the European Community to bring about a negotiated political solution.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, also asked me about UN negotiations with representatives of the different sides. There is daily contact between the UNPROFOR representatives and the parties to the conflict at all levels. But there are two roles being played out: the role being carried out very bravely by our noble friend Lord Carrington to try to make the peace; and the role of the United Nations to keep the peace. That is a very difficult thing to do.

We have always realised that sadly there might be need for the use of force. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, was absolutely right to ask about Security Council Resolution 757. Such a resolution leaves the door open for the use of force but any departure to use force, any departure from the current humanitarian work and the work that UNPROFOR is doing, would require a Security Council resolution. It is important always to remember that we can only act within the resolutions so far passed. But we are prepared, if there is no other way to bring peace to those benighted people, to go back to the Security Council.

I do not wish to detain the House too long tonight but it is right that I report that my noble friend Lord Carrington sees the crisis in Bosnia as the most pressing problem of all those facing his conference. He has therefore decided to try to visit Sarajevo on Friday next, 3rd July, in an attempt to restart the talks with the parties concerned on future constitutional arrangements for Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, there are a number of other important areas which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and his conference are actively addressing. I refer to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, the human rights issues affecting Serbs in Croatia, Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia, and Hungarians and others in Vojvodina.

The conference is also tackling the more practical issues of succession, such as the question of the division of assets and liabilities of the former Yugoslav republics. There is a great deal of work to do. I know that this House wishes my noble friend Lord Carrington every success in the enormous task that he has undertaken.

The latest position in Bosnia-Herzegovina is that the ICRC has been re-established in the Bosnian towns; and in Sarajevo so far there have been five French relief flights. Sadly most of them have had to sit on the runway not unloaded because there is a need for the very equipment which the UK is airlifting into Sarajevo—the kind of trucks and vehicles which will take the goods, generously given, from Sarajevo airport into Sarajevo and out beyond. But even they cannot move unless they can be protected by the UN forces. I shall return to that point in just one moment because the Canadian troops who are going in will be part of that whole operation.

Perhaps I may now turn to the whole question of helping people in that situation. We are sending logisticians to help UNHCR to take forward the deliveries of the goods when it is safe to do so. But the whole plan has to be carried through in a military, but a peaceful military way. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Wedgwood would want to use whatever staff is needed to carry that through. Of course, there has already been superb work done by our own people who serve there with UN forces from the Ambulance Corps.

Perhaps I may turn to the question of refugees and displaced persons. The international relief effort is obviously led by the ICRC, UNHCR, supported by UNICEF and WHO. ICRC provides relief in the conflict zones. It is working to promote compliance with the Geneva Conventions. It has gone on supplying in Bosnia and Herzegovina food and hygienic supplies to displaced and vulnerable groups —for example, hospitals, orphanages and old people's homes. UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO are providing the relief supplies to the refugees and those displaced throughout the former Yugoslav republics. Regrettably there have been the appalling security risks of which I spoke earlier.

I have been asked several times about the international appeals that have been launched to support the activities. For ICRC the appeal was for the equivalent of £15.6 million sterling and for UNHCR £92 million sterling. So far some 53 per cent. of the former and 29 per cent. of the latter has been pledged by the international community. That is not enough. We are doing our bit. We are encouraging others to do theirs. I understand that by using local non-governmental organisations, which always do so well in these situations, UNHCR is able to deliver help in a number of areas which have previously been very difficult to reach. Certainly a number of European NGOs have been used by the Commission for delivery of EC-donated supplies—agencies such as CARITAS, Pharmaciens Sans Frontières, Equilibre, the Children's Embassy and a number of others. But there are many people willing to help if only a ceasefire will permit them to do so.

The great majority of the people displaced by the conflicts are indeed in neighbouring republics. We have already heard much about what is going on from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. We know now that nearly 1.5 million refugees have been registered by the UNHCR from the former Yugoslav republics including displaced persons. But there are at least another 325,000 people seeking sanctuary in countries outside the former Yugoslavia. The UNHCR continues to monitor the situation closely. It has registered some 200,000 in Germany, a further 60,000 in Hungary and some 20,000 in Austria. Those figures represent only those who have registered. The true scale of the problem is far greater and almost impossible to quantify exactly although efforts are being made. Many thousands have sought shelter with friends and relatives. They have not registered. We know that the Austrian authorities estimate that they have more than 40,000 Yugoslav refugees within their borders—more than double the figure that I quoted for those registered with UNHCR.

Those seeking sanctuary are the joint responsibility of both the country of refuge and the UNHCR under the terms of the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. The UNHCR is doing its best. Everyone else is prepared to back it. But we shall only see an end to the refugee and displaced persons' problem when the fighting stops altogether.

Having told your Lordships of the latest assessment of what is going on, I can only say that the latest news on the ceasefire is better than it has been. We believe that the re-opening of the airport will pave the way for agreements to allow the safe passage of relief goods by road. That is the most cost-effective way of transporting the huge quantities of goods that are required.

The Canadian battalion which is going in to help will arrive in two stages. It will be taking goods with it. I understand that there is an advance party of 250 going in tonight, and a further body of about 550 tomorrow night. Those troops are the ones who will secure the airport for the humanitarian flights until a durable ceasefire has been achieved. It is crucial that all the parties to the conflict agree to abide by the ceasefire. We can then really get to work to help the refugees, the displaced persons and those people who are barely surviving in their own homes. They must not be forgotten.

The work that we are doing—whether it be with the help of the 60 UN military observers who arrived on 17th June at Sarajevo Airport, whether it be through French, Canadian and other troops or our own ambulance personnel and engineers who are serving —is to one end; namely, to bring relief to the people of the former Yugoslav republics. The conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina are quite terrible. We know about all the shortages; they need not be repeated now.

I believe that we need to carry on with our work to find a durable political solution and to undertake preventive work where that is sensible. I know how much my noble friend Lord Wedgwood is concerned about that. We cannot undertake that work on the scale that he outlined. It is important that in carrying out preventive work we do not interfere with groups which can manage for themselves, perhaps with some technical assistance from outside. However, those who are involved closely—whether it be in Kosovo, Vojvodina or anywhere else—tell us that it is important that on the ground we have the monitoring of the observance of the CSCE commitments. That is why the senior officials from the CSCE went to Vojvodina, Sandjak and Kosovo. Sadly, we have not been able to secure the co-operation of the Serbian authorities in those visits. However, we shall continue to try until those tasks can be made to work.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked about asylum applications from the former Yugoslav citizens. We have received some 1,000 applications in this country. All applications are considered under the terms of the 1951 UN convention on the status of refugees. We are taking our obligations extremely seriously. I fear that eventually many may not qualify as refugees under the terms of the convention but that is because they are not fleeing individual persecution. The best work that we can do is to bring about the ceasefire and help it to hold and to allow those people to return to their own homes.

We have thoughts on longer-term repatriation and rehabilitation. I should like to leave those for another time when I have had a further discussion with Mrs. Ogata. I have already spoken twice with her about these issues. I believe that all the work we need to do must be done in close conjunction with UNHCR, the ICRC, the UN Security Council, the political reporters to the United Nations Secretary General and with the commission led by my noble friend Lord Carrington.

We have some knowledge of the pink zones about which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked. Yesterday the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution No. 762. It provides for the establishment under UN auspices of a joint commission to oversee the restoration of Croatian authority in those zones. But difficulties may follow. The UN observers would monitor the withdrawal of all armed units from those pink zones and retain a presence along the line of confrontation. In addition, the UN civilian police would monitor the maintenance of law and order in those zones, with particular regard to minority groups as has been the case in the UN protected areas.

The situation in the former Yugoslavia will be discussed day by day in the UN. The European Community will discuss the matter formally at the next Foreign Affairs Council on 20th July. But the working group is in session each week and the political committee continues to discuss matters daily. As issues arise, we shall deal with them.

Your Lordships will see from what has been said in this debate that, while the situation is grave, it is one in which we are determined to help and to bring relief. Looking to the future, I know that resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced persons back in their own homes is what they desire most. That will take time and resources but we must be truly grateful to LINHCR, ICRC and the many other organisations for the work that they are doing. We must do all we can to help the different elements of the international community rise to the challenge and meet the humanitarian needs of the people of the former Yugoslavia.