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Refugees Accept Opportunity to Inspect Conditions in Bosnia

Munich, July 17 (RFE/RL) -- Around 30,000 Bosnian refugees in Germany have taken the opportunity to make a brief visit home to see whether conditions exist for them to return permanently. Many are said to have been disillusioned in their hopes of finding jobs and accomodation.

That is the preliminary report of a Munich group involved with the estimated 320,000 refugees living in Germany. The group has joined others in urging a delay in the forced repatriation of refugees from October until next April in the hope conditions will improve.

Bosnian refugees living in Germany who want to make an inspection trip home are given a small sticker to put in their travel papers. It gives them the right to return to Germany and resume their refugee status while they consider the situation. The sticker is good for only one journey to Bosnia and back.

The system came into force July 1. A Government spokesman said today the first 30,000 stickers were taken within days. Another 60,000 are now being printed and it is expected more will be needed.

"The demand for the tickets indicates that there is a big interest in returning to Bosnia," said a spokesman for the Munich group concerned with refugee problems. But he said many had come back very disappointed. In many cases, their homes are in ruins, or have been taken-over by other people. The job market is not flourishing. The spokesman said a lot of them were also concerned about the political climate, and worried about what could happen after the IFOR peace-keeping troops withdraw.

This group, like several in other parts of Germany, argue that the housing and job situation could be worsened if a flood of refugees appear in towns and villages after October. Several also say it is unjust to return the refugees shortly before the outbreak of winter. They have proposed that forced repatriation be delayed at least until April next year.

In Germany, the date for repatriation will be decided by the individual provinces in consultation with the Federal interior ministry. The provinces ruled by the Social Democratic party have indicated they generally favor a delay until April, but no decisions have been taken.

The Federal Government office dealing with the Bosnian refugees today told RFE/RL that around half the refugees came from areas now occupied by the "Bosian-Serb Republic." A spokesman said the government recognised that, regardless of the provisions in the Dayton Accords, these people will probably not be able to return home, and will require help in building a new life elsewhere.

This problem has been the subject of frequent comment by the german media. The Munich newspaper "Suddeutsche Zeitung" said this week that in many instances Muslim refugees trying to return to their old homes in the Bosnian Serb Republic were greeted with stones and even bullets. It said they would have to make a new start in other areas where they could live in safety.

"There are many objections to such a resettlement policy," the newspaper said. "It accepts the outcome of the war and the results of the so-called ethnic cleansing. It betrays the Dayton peace agreement, which guarantees the refugees a return to their hometown."

But, the newspaper said facts had to be recognised and even the Bosnia's government acted in the same way. "With covert support from the authorities, Muslim refugees from Srebenica are being settled in Sarajevo in districts which were deserted by the Bosnian Serbs in the spring. Some of these Serbs now live in Srebenica."

The newspaper a detailed report on the situation in Bosnia was required before the forced repatriation of the refugees. "This requires answers to questions such as: who can return where, and when," it said.

The newspaper said that until now the German authorities had basically contented themselves with deciding that unmarried people would be the first to return,followed by families a little later. It said this was insufficient planning for the real situation.

The Munich newspaper said Germany had offered considerable help to the refugees in the past. According to Federal Government figures, around 14,000-million marks (about 9,400-million dollars) has been spent in accomodating and caring for the refugees since the war began. The newspaper suggested Germany should now invest in creating the appropriate conditions for a return of the refugees. It said the money spent on caring for refugees in Germany could be used to help create a new start in Bosnia.