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UNHCR Identifies Key Target Areas for Bosnia Return

  • Lisa McAdams

Prague, June 14 (RFE/RL) -- The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, has identified 18 key target areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina for a proposed international reconstruction effort that could help up to 165,000 people return home. The estimated cost of the plan: 183 million dollars.

Few other details are known of the proposal, which Ogata unveiled yesterday in Florence, Italy, before delegates from some 40 countries reviewing compliance with the Bosnia peace accords.

Ogata said in a statement that there has been little progress in finding solutions for the two million people uprooted during the war. In her words, "only 70,000 refugees and displaced persons have gone back home."

The high commissioner said the main problem is that some leaders are still trying to pursue in peace the goals they pursued in war.

Ogata also said she was not yet in a position to recommend the lifting of temporary protection for hundreds of thousands of Bosnian refugees currently in other European countries. She cited the lack of an effective human rights monitoring mechanism, problems with amnesty laws, and continuing obstacles to freedom of movement.

Meanwhile the Deputy Director of the Prague-based Organization for Aid to refugees (OPU) said today that problems still remain with the repatriation of refugees from the former Yugoslavia.

Pavel Tychtl's comments came during a news conference to observe the June 16 International Day of Refugees, which originated after the 100th country signed the Geneva convention. More than 50 percent of European countries observe the occasion, aimed at promoting tolerance, multi-culturalism and human rights. Tychtl told our correspondent that the Czech government had promised two planes to help with the refugees' return home to the Balkans, but he said there has been no further word or follow-up.

According to Tychtl there are 1,200 refugees from the former Yugoslavia in the Czech Republic, nearly half of whom want to return home. Tychtl told RFE/RL that the first wave of these refugees is scheduled to leave the Czech Republic next month, though no exact date has been set.

Refugees from the former Yugoslavia make up the largest group of refugees in the Czech Republic. Before 1989, the Czech republic mainly produced immigrants and refugees. Now, as a democratic country, it has the new responsibility to assist them and offer refuge as needed.