HC Deb 10 November 2000 vol 356 cc414-5W
Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what bomb and mine-clearing operations are taking place in Kosovo; and in how many of these operations British service personnel are involved. [137381]

Mr. Spellar

When KFOR deployed to Kosovo in June 1999, the immediate requirement was to clear ordnance that would have posed a hazard to peacekeeping forces. This was KFOR' s responsibility, and British service personnel were engaged in this activity. KFOR also took on the immediate task of making schools safe for the returning population of Kosovo. Two British servicemen tragically lost their lives in performing this vital task.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (MAS) is responsible for the longer term task of fully clearing Kosovo of unexploded ordnance, and has established a UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre (MACC) in Pristina to this end. The Department for International Development (DfID) has supported the UNMACC with grants, specialist staff and equipment. DfID has also, since June 1999, contracted for five organisations to supply 12 rapid reaction teams to undertake clearance tasks. These UK sponsored teams are now directed by UNMACC.

British troops do not now conduct mine or bomb clearance as a matter of routine, but are on permanent standby for clearance tasks where there is a threat to KFOR. Furthermore, we have authorised the UN to task our teams to support its own efforts to make areas safe for the return of displaced persons by surveying marking and helping clear areas hit by cluster bombs.

The UNMACC state that 2,314 areas have been cleared to date, including minefields, bomblet strikes and other dangerous areas and that there are 1,085 sites remaining to be cleared. UNMACC expect all areas that currently present a risk to life will be cleared by the end of next year.