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Refugees Crowd WGerman Embassies in East Bloc; Bonn Closes Warsaw Office

September 19, 1989

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ The number of East Germans seeking refuge in West Germany’s embassies in Prague and Warsaw swelled to more than 600 on Tuesday, leading Bonn to close its Warsaw embassy to the public.

Hungarian news media reported for the first time Tuesday that Czechoslovak authorities were preventing emigres from reaching Hungary. A Czechoslovak government official denied the allegation.

The reports followed refugee complaints recently of East German and Czechoslovak harassment. The refugees say authorities are trying to keep them from entering Hungary. From Hungary, they can cross freely to neutral Austria under special measures adopted by Hungarian authorities eight days ago.

Refugees inside the West German Embassy grounds in Prague said they now numbered 500, with 300 having climbed over the six-foot fence surrounding the compound the past few days.

An additional 120 East Germans, also seeking guarantees of safe passage to the West, are in the embassy in Warsaw.

The West German Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday it was closing its Warsaw embassy to the public until further notice, saying the situation had become untenable.

Franz Schoeller, Bonn’s ambassador to Poland, told the West German TV network ARD that 104 East Germans were inside the embassy and 16 more were outside. He did not spell out what he meant by ″outside″ the embassy.

Bonn officials previously spoke of 110 refugees in the compound.

Schoeller said ″Poland has promised a pragmatic solution.″ Asked if he meant sending the refugees to West Germany, he replied, ″I don’t see it that way yet. We must wait.″

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jurgen Chrobog, said the Polish citizens seeking visas for West Germany could obtain them at travel agencies.

West Germany had already closed to the public its embassies in Prague and Budapest and the diplomatic mission in East Berlin after hundreds of East Germans started seeking refuge in the buildings last month.

The Budapest embassy reopened to the public after Hungary agreed to open its borders to the East Germans seeking passage to the West.

West German border officials reported 700 refugees arrived in West Germany over the last 24 hours, raising to nearly 17,000 the number of East Germans who have come to West Germany since Hungary opened its borders Sept. 11.

Hungarian radio said the numbers of East Germans seeking refuge in the Prague embassy probably increased because ″Czechoslovak authorities are turning East Germans back, that is preventing them from going to Hungary although they have valid travel documents authorizing them to travel there.″

A Prague Foreign Ministry spokesman Tuesday denied that. ″Czechoslovakia honors all international covenants. No problems in rail or car transportation are made for East Germans traveling to Hungary with valid documents,″ Ivan Kulhanek said. ″All statements implying the opposite are untrue.″

Czechoslovakia, sandwiched between East Germany and Hungary, is the most direct route for East Germans traveling to Hungary.

Wolfgang Wagner, an official of a West German charity organization handling East German refugees in Hungary, said 100 East Germans who had crossed the border illegally from Czechoslovakia arrived at his camp Tuesday.

Before Hungary opened its borders, thousands had crossed illegally over stretches of the country’s Western border that have been cleared of barbed wire as part of Hungary’s more liberal political and economic policies.

The state news agency MTI reported Tuesday that criminal proceedings had been started against nine border guards charged with smuggling East Germans across the Austrian border.

It quoted the military prosecutor’s office in the west Hungarian town of Gyoer as saying the guards had, in exchange for ″significant sums,″ helped East Germans clear the border during a period following Aug. 20, 1989 before Hungary allowed East Germans to legally cross into Austria.

Five men have been taken into custody, and the other four have been taken off border patrol duty, cannot carry out armed service and are not allowed to leave the military compound until the issue is clarified, MTI said.

East Germany’s official Communist Party newspaper stepped up its harsh criticism of West Germany Tuesday, accusing it of ″slave trade″ in allegedly encouraging the exodus of East Germans to the West.

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