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Bosnia: Germany Asked To Delay Refugee Repatriation

Munich, 12 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Refugee Minister of the Bosnian-Croat federation, Rasim Kadic, has appealed to Germany to delay repatriation of refugees because of the failure of the European Union (EU) to provide promised financial support. However, German officials say a postponement is unlikely.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Munich reports that after talks with German officials in Bonn, Kadic said repatriation should be delayed until the EU transfers sufficient funds to provide accomodation for the returnees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that at least 65,000 houses would have to be built or rebuilt this year to accomodate the around 100,000 refugees scheduled to return this year from Germany and other countries. The UNHCR has criticized the EU's response to this repatriation effort.

Our correspondent says that last month, after a trip to Bosnia, the interior ministers of three German states declared that conditions were adequate for the return of refugees. German officials have estimated that about 300,000 Bosnian refugees remain in Germany after the repatriation of about 20,000 last year. Kadic said previously he believes Bosnia-Herzegovina is capable of receiving only between 30,000-50,000 returning refugees this year. He added that only about half of these should come from Germany and the other half from other countries.

Kadic said he had found little support from German interior minister Manfred Kanther or other officials. Our correspondent tells us that under German law, it is the interior ministers of the 16 provincial governments who have the last word on the repatriation process, although Kanther has a powerful say.

Germany is scheduled to resume repatriation two weeks from now of around 80,000 single men and women and married couples without children. The repatriation of families is scheduled to begin in the summer.

Kadic said he was shocked that Muslim refugees from Srebenica were among those who had received orders to leave Germany. Most of the male population of Srebenica was killed after the city was captured by Serb forces two years ago and the survivors were expelled. The city is now part of the Serb republic and has no Muslim population.

Kadic said he believed Germany's decision to go ahead with repatriation despite the lack of adequate housing and jobs is a technical breach of the November 1996 agreement between Bonn and Sarajevo. The agreement says repatriation should be conducted within a framework of discussion and close co-operation between Germany and Bosnia. It also says repatriation plans should take account of the actual situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The European Union's failure to provide promised financial support was criticized earlier this month by the interior ministers of the 16 German provincial governments. The EU has also been criticized by the UNHCR.