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Bosnia: U.N. To Evacuate Bosnian Muslim Families

Banja Luka, Bosnia; 3 September 1996 (RFE/RL)-- The United Nations says it will begin evacuation this week of members of seven Bosnian Muslim families who have been unable to return to their homes in a suburb of Banja Luka in the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic.

Mans Nyberg, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Banja Luka, says 11 family members are due to be evacuated to a third country this week, with more to follow next week. The families were evicted from their homes by Bosnian Serb refugees during violent incidents at the end of June.

Since the evictions from the village of Vrbanja, one family has been able to move back and has not experienced further problems. But Nyberg says the other seven familes, who made two assessment visits to the village accompanied by local police and U.N. officials, have been subject to physical and verbal abuse by recently-arrived Serbs.

The Muslims are refusing to move back because they do not feel their security is guaranteed. Nyberg says UNHCR has no other alternative than to start the evacuation process.

"It is outrageous that this many months (nine) after the Dayton Accords, members of one ethnic minority group have to be evacuated because their safety and security in their own homes cannot be assured," he told RFE/RL's correspondent in Banja Luka.

U.N. officials say the Muslims will initially be sheltered at a refugee camp in Croatia. They will be allowed to cast ballots in the September 14 local elections.