U.N. Says Croatia, Bosnia Resettling Refugees Against Their Will
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ First they fled from Bosnian Serb areas to safety in Croatia. Now more than 1,000 Croat and Muslim refugees have been forced to return to Bosnia to settle in government-held territory, U.N. officials said Wednesday.
Such a forced movement by Bosnian and Croatian authorities violates international refugee treaties, said Alemka Lisinski, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Zagreb.
Ana Markus, a spokeswoman for Croatia’s refugee agency, denied that anyone was forced to leave. She said all the refugees left voluntarily.
However, Lisinski said some refugees were forced to return to Bosnia despite saying they didn’t want to go for fear of renewed fighting.
``We’re hopeful that the government would take the necessary measures to stop the practice,″ Lisinski said.
Croatia is pressing for its 200,000 Bosnian refugees to leave. Bosnia’s Muslim-led government has said repeatedly that it wants them back home, and says recent victories by anti-Serb forces have made that possible.
Croatia and Bosnia agreed to move the refugees, regardless of which parts of Bosnia they came from, to areas in Bosnia held by government or allied Croat forces, Markus said.
Lisinski said the local authorities had orders to move the refugees soon after they arrived, without interviews to determine whether they want to go back or not.
More than 500 Muslims and 267 Croats from Serb-held Banja Luka who reached safety in Croatia on Tuesday were bused back to Bosnia the same day, Lisinski said. She said Muslims went to Bihac in the northwest, and Croats to Glamoc in the southwest.
Similarly, 581 Bosnian Muslims were taken to Bihac Sept. 11, even though they told U.N. aid officials they didn’t want to go for fear of renewed warfare, Lisinski said.
She said Croatian and Bosnian authorities told the refugees they could go either to Bihac or to Serb-controlled Banja Luka.
Following recent victories of Croat and Muslim forces that sent tens of thousands of Serb fleeing, Bosnian Serb authorities have stepped up the expulsion of non-Serbs from rebel-held areas of northern Bosnia.