HL Deb 10 June 1992 vol 537 cc1259-60

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are taking any action to help with relief for refugees from the territories which were formerly Yugoslavia, in view of the particular burden being borne by Austria.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, since last November the UK has given £9.7 million to the Red Cross and the United Nations humanitarian agencies for work in the former Yugoslav republics, much of which involves assistance to refugees.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her most satisfactory reply. Does she agree that the Austrians have an outstanding record for humanitarian and efficient reception of refugees from neighbouring countries? Does she further agree that western European countries should give help to them when necessary?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, as a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, Austria should deal with asylum seekers under the terms of the convention in the same way as would all other signatories.

Lord Judd

My Lords, the situation is obviously grave. Does the Minister agree that there are 1.4 million internally displaced people in Yugoslavia as a whole? Does she agree that in Bosnia-Herzegovina alone 800,000 have had to flee their homes in the past two months and that 250,000 have had to resettle in other European countries? Does the noble Baroness accept that much more must be done when the UN has appealed for 174 million US dollars to deal with the problem and so far only 26 million US dollars have been subscribed?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the answer to the first part of the noble Lord's question is, yes. The international relief effort is being led by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN High Commission for Refugees. UNHCR is also co-ordinating the work of two other UN humanitarian agencies: UNICEF and the World Health Organisation.

The ICRC has launched an appeal for £15.1 million for its activities in the former Yugoslavia and the UN agencies have issued a joint appeal for 174 million US dollars. I believe that that answers the question.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that there ought to be a formal European agreement so that any country faced with the enormous expense and the duty of looking after refugees can rely on automatic funding from the whole of Europe?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord refers to the EC, which has been involved on a financial basis. It has given £33 million since November 1991. The countries which have been most involved—Italy, Germany and Austria—have held meetings and appealed to people to give to the agencies which are involved.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the Minister in a position to inform the House which, of the various nationalities which used to make up Yugoslavia, form the bulk of the refugees?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am not sure that I am. However, I can give the following figures. The total figure for refugees is 1,152,600, of whom 541,000 are from Bosnia; 128,000 are internally displaced from that area; 5,500 are from Macedonia; 22,500 from Montenegro; 31,200 from Slovenia; 294,400 from Serbia and 575,000 from Croatia.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is it not the case that any relief operation in Bosnia is made virtually impossible because the airport at Sarajevo is closed? Will the noble Baroness confirm that the United Nations has now decided to send a force of over 1,000 men to the area in order to secure the airport and to ensure that it is kept open? That would transform the scene. Can she tell the House precisely what progress is being made?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, it would be wrong for me not to say how greatly concerned the UK Government are at the suffering of thousands and thousands of people. The UN Security Council resolution of 8th June authorised the deployment of 60 military observers to supervise the creation of secure conditions to allow the re-opening of Sarajevo airport. It also endorsed in principle the deployment of 1,000 UN troops to secure the airport once the ceasefire is in place. However, the UN Secretary-General will have to revert to the UN Security Council before deployment can go ahead.

Back to