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Dr. Tonge: I appreciate the hon. Lady's comments, and certainly it would be valuable for people to receive such support and counselling. However, does she not think that, in times like these, the closeness of people's own families and communities is of overriding importance and would

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provide far more support to them? The Albanian Government's suggestion of trying to gather people in camps into their natural communities, reflecting the old villages of Kosovo, is therefore a very good one.

Ms Kingham: I agree partly with the hon. Lady's comments. However, organisations that have worked with victims of oppression, torture and rape and with those who have witnessed tragic events have made it clear that close family members are not always those who are able to provide the necessary support to victims--who need long-term counselling by external counsellors and advisers--and that families break down if the right support is not available. Families cannot always provide their members with the support they need.

If victims cannot speak to an external counsellor and gain that support, the possible eventual consequences are tension within the family, domestic violence and outbreaks of--sometimes physical--abuse of children, all of which lead not only to dysfunctional families but to dysfunctional communities and communities in crisis.

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow): My hon. Friend is developing an important and interesting argument. She is obviously aware of the work of the Medical Foundation, which agrees that someone other than a family member is often needed. A Muslim woman who has been raped might find it very difficult to talk to someone whom she knows. Being in a camp surrounded by armed guards is similar to detention. My hon. Friend may be aware of the work of Dr Christina Pourgourides on the mental health effects of detention on asylum seekers in this country, who are held in much better conditions than those in the camps in Macedonia.

Ms Kingham: I agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. I have spoken to several organisations in the camps, including the UNHCR and the Red Cross. The World Health Organisation is considering providing services for psychological support. However, there is a clear lack of co-ordination. In Bosnia, support was not provided in the early stages of humanitarian assistance and it was not followed through. Dozens of small non-governmental organisations turned up in Bosnia to give quick-fix counselling and psychological support and then pulled out. Unfortunately, that sometimes did more harm than good. The effort was not sustained and people did not get the support that they needed.

The Medical Foundation and others have pointed out to me that, after six months, refugees go to the intermediate phase of mental crisis, when self-denial is no longer possible and the true force of the effects of the terror that they have experienced will come out. It is crucial that they have long-term support at that time. They will also need support when they return to their homes in Kosovo. It will be no utopia. Their homes will be devastated and their villages will be burned. They will face yet another phase of crisis.

Support for the refugees is necessary immediately, after six months and on their return home. There must be an integrated programme in the humanitarian assistance effort to ensure that they are given support from the beginning until they return home. I do not feel reassured that such help is being provided. The consequences of that could be grim. There could be outbreaks of violence in

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the camps, families may break down, communities will not be functional and, when people return home, they will not be able to rebuild their lives in the way that they need.

I urge the Government to ask the UNHCR to ensure that a programme of care for the refugees is bolted into the planning for the coming months. It is not an optional extra. There is no point in feeding people and giving them shelter and medical care if we end up with appalling scenes such as the horrible picture that I am sure that we all remember emblazoned over the front of the newspapers during the Bosnia crisis featuring a 19-year-old girl who had been raped and had hanged herself from a tree because she could no longer live with the trauma and felt that she had nobody to turn to.

12.3 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): May I ask a question of which I have given the Department notice? It concerns the nuclear power station at Kosledoj in Bulgaria, which, before the crisis, was perhaps the most worrying of the eastern bloc nuclear power stations. There is a real problem of oil pollution in the Danube, which could foul up the coolant system. If the coolant system were injured in any way, there could be a catastrophe along Chernobyl lines. I am not saying that that would happen, but it is possible. I have contacted Scottish Nuclear and British Energy about the issue and told the Department about my worries. There is a similar problem with the Romanian Cernavoda No. 1 power station.

The environmental consequences of bombing know no borders. Large quantities of chlorine and other noxious gases have been released into the air after the bombing of the refinery and petrochemical plant at Pancevo. I understand that the rain that has fallen in the past few days on Pancevo, Novi Sad and Belgrade, as well as over the Hungarian border, is grey-black. That has been detected by ordinary people striving to save water and by meteorologists and other experts. That water will seep into the soil and poison the crops. The Danube and the Sava are so polluted that people are forbidden to eat fish from them. The destroyed chemical plants and the oil storage drums have leaked into the rivers. Fertiliser and chemical plants have been spawning black fumes.

I make a plea to the Government to reconsider yet again whether the strategy of bombing helps this awful situation. Sometimes, doing the right thing may involve loss of face, but history will judge us kindly for choosing such an option. There is still scope for diplomatic activity to negotiate a settlement under the auspices of the United Nations to protect the people of Kosovo and elsewhere. We have to stop our policy of capitulation or else.

After the conflict with NATO is over, Yugoslavia and the area around it will depend on imported oil and will be unable to rebuild its industrial sector, let alone bridges, without huge amounts of aid from the countries that are now bombing it. Can we not reconsider the policy of bombing?

12.6 pm

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) for initiating this important debate and to the members of the Select Committee, who have brought back their testimony of what they have seen in the past few days of this dreadful crisis. The House

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would also be wise to listen carefully to the words of warning from my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark). Hon. Members are entitled to speak about different aspects of the issue in this Chamber.

I am sure that many hon. Members feel, as I do, that it is almost too painful to open a newspaper, turn on the television or listen to the radio, only to hear yet more distressing tales of what is going on in Kosovo. The suffering of the Kosovar Albanians is distressing for us all. Perhaps it is not easy to focus on anything more than supporting the refugees through the crisis and bringing the conflict to a successful conclusion so that peace and security can be established in the region once again and people can go back to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives, which is what they want.

However, we would fail the people of the region if, in addition to soft hearts, we did not also bring clear minds to the debate. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie is right to cause us to look at the wider implications for neighbouring states and the longer-term implications for the region. The decisions that we make in the west continue to have a significant effect on the people of the region.

I intend to be brief, because I want the Minister to have as long as possible to answer as many points as he can. However, it is worth repeating what we all believe: that the responsibility for the situation lies with President Milosevic and a tiny minority of Serb enforcers. He is a brutal dictator who has no part to play in the Europe of the 21st century. I have a friend living in Belgrade who still e-mails me about once a week. He is an intelligent and reasonable man, but he cannot understand what NATO is doing and does not believe that ethnic cleansing is taking place in Kosovo. That shows the scale of the challenge that the Serbian people will face when all this is over to come to terms with the reality of what has happened in their country.

We will always support our troops in action overseas. We pay tribute again to their courage and dedication. However, I must take this opportunity to make it clear again that when the armed conflict finally comes to an end, we shall require some answers to the many searching questions that we have asked about how we found ourselves in this position. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) made a similar point. It is in the interests of the region that lessons should be learned from the situation. It will be necessary to revisit the failure of the diplomatic efforts of the past two years. We shall have to examine the consequences of so many threats but so little action in 1998. We must examine carefully the lack of preparedness of the relevant agencies in terms of coping with an exodus of refugees that was breathtaking, but inevitable once air strikes started. We will be right to probe the initial lack of co-ordination between NATO, the EU and the UN.

I feel strongly--perhaps the Minister will not agree--that we should consider whether some of the intergalactic rhetoric of some Government Ministers in the past few weeks has helped or hindered the cause. Many lessons must be learned from the conflict, and it is our job, as Her Majesty's loyal Opposition, to try to make sure that that happens. Having started down the road, there is no alternative but to press on to a successful conclusion for the people of Kosovo, NATO and the region as a whole.

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There are implications for neighbouring states. Albania and Macedonia are poor and have internal problems of their own, and they have been all but overwhelmed by the influx of refugees. The testimony that we have heard today makes that point eloquently. The strains on their social structures and economies are significant.

There has been a severe impact on the economies of other neighbouring states such as Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania as a result of the loss of transport routes through Serbia for exports and the lack of investor confidence in the region generally. I was in Kosovo in December and in Bosnia earlier in the year. The region is staggeringly beautiful, but it is not hard to see that tourism this year is unlikely to be substantial. Milosevic has many victims, not all of whom live in Kosovo.

Our response must be in the short, medium and long term. However, our commitment to the region must be absolute. This is Europe; we have a strategic national interest in long-term European stability. I believe that we have a moral responsibility also to see the matter through.

In the short term, we must pay the costs of supporting the refugees in the region. We must be both compassionate and efficient. The magnificent record- breaking response of the great British public--in giving over £30 million to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal--demonstrates how the crisis has been taken to the hearts of the people of this country.

I welcome the increase in our aid from £20 million to £40 million, announced by the Prime Minister on Monday. It would be helpful if the Minister could specify where that money is coming from. Which part of the Government's coffers will it be taken from? What specific use will be made of the money? What are the implications for the balance of the Department's budget? I agree with the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) that the money should come out of Treasury contingencies,rather than those of the Department for International Development.

I welcome the decision by the EU to make £168 million available to aid agencies and to the Governments of Macedonia, of Montenegro and of Albania. It is vital that we support those Governments at this time. However, I am concerned at the reports, to which the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie alluded, that the money is still not getting through on the ground. I did not understand the reference to the books of Macedonia not being in order, and I hope that the Minister will clarify that matter. What must be done to get the money through? How much longer will the Macedonian Government be kept waiting for this vital aid? Will the Minister keep an eye on the Brussels money to ensure that it is not bogged down by long-term Brussels red tape, as so often has happened in the past?

The Home Secretary announced yesterday that this country will take 1,000 refugees per week. Before that, the Government's clear policy had been to provide for the refugees on the ground. Can the Minister explain the change of policy? Does he agree that such an important policy change should have been made by a statement to the House of Commons? Can he confirm that there will be such a statement by the Home Secretary this afternoon, so that we can question him on the matter? It will

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be difficult to decide on the proper response to the announcement until we know the detailed facts and figures.

It remains our preference to care for people in the region, so that they can go back to their homes as soon as possible, as that is what they want. We look forward to a statement in the House this afternoon so that we can make a proper assessment of the decision.

In the medium term, it is vital that aid for the region is co-ordinated. People are talking about a Marshall plan, and we would support a significant reconstruction plan for the region. It is in the long-term interests of all of us that European stability is achieved. Obviously, the EU has a vital role, and perhaps the Minister can say a little about its plans.

In the long term--with the goal being the stability of the region--I feel strongly that the EU has an historic opportunity to underpin long-term stability by proceeding with enlargement at a realistic and reasonable pace. Enlargement can bring to the region the benefits of stable democracies, market-based economies, strong, civil societies and respect for the rule of law and human rights; perhaps for the first time in history. Will the Minister confirm the Government's commitment to that process?

Perhaps some lateral thinking is required by the EU to create some special status for some of those countries that clearly are not ready--or anything like ready--for accession to the EU. That would help those countries through the next few years as they prepare for accession. Does he agree that a wider Europe, rather than a deeper Europe, will bring peace, stability and ultimately prosperity to that needy region?


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