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Czech Republic Begins Voluntary Repatriation of Bosnians

Prague, July 17 (RFE/RL) -- Seventy-three Bosnian refugees boarded a special Czech government plane in Prague today, bound for Sarajevo.

Earlier today, the Czech Interior Ministry said it was starting the voluntary repatriation of citizens of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Ministry spokesman Jan Subert said a total of 400 people will be flown from Prague to Sarajevo in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner's Office for Refugees.

Tomas Haisman, director of the ministry's refugee department, said the Czech Republic is currently giving temporary asylum to 1,200 people from the former Yugoslavia. Four hundred have opted for voluntary repatriation. Haisman said the remaining 800 refugess will be allowed to remain in the Czech Republic as long as they meet the conditions of asylum status. After that, they will be able to petition for a long-term residence permit.