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Baroness Amos: My Lords, we had a meeting yesterday with the NGOs. They are considering the kind of funding applications that they would like to make to the department. We have undertaken to respond to those applications within a very short timescale--as short as between six and 12 hours if necessary--because this is a crisis. We are aware of the reports about the possibility of starvation in Kosovo, but we cannot verify whether they are accurate. Within the past hour, we have allocated £0.5 million to the World Food Programme
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement. I emphasise what I think we must take the opportunity to state whenever we can. The problem of refugees has not been caused by the activity of NATO, but by the genocide being perpetrated by the Milosevic Government, and that in those circumstances, we still have a continuing obligation to help. Is my noble friend aware that we are very grateful for the fact that the Statement emphasised the collaboration of DfID with the whole of the rest of the international community, with non-governmental organisations and with the European Union, which is represented by Mrs. Bonino in a mission to see Kosovan refugees even while we are debating?
Does my noble friend agree that we should not shrink in the future from finding all the necessary funding and other resources for humanitarian aid, just as we have not measured the cost in taking the necessary action against the Milosevic Government? I think that the one has to follow just as clearly as the other. I hope that my noble friend will confirm that the generosity being shown by the Government at present will be ongoing until the problem is resolved.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Tomlinson that the refugee problem has not been caused by the activities of NATO. We have been clear throughout that this has to be an international effort if it is to succeed. We are working in partnership not only with our European colleagues, but also with the international community. We are also working in partnership across government to enable us to be as effective as possible.
With regard to my noble friend's question about funding and resources, I can assure him that funding is not the issue. The department has found £10 million out of its own budget. We have a budget for humanitarian assistance. Future priorities will be for the whole Government to decide. They will be considered in the light of the outcome of the impact and assessment which a joint MoD/DfID team will be making over the next week, and in the light of other developments in the region.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, is it not true that one lesson that we must learn from this tragedy is that we need to stand up sooner to bullying dictators because injustice breeds instability and that we must back someone like a future Mr. Rugova? As the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, said, we must fund the humanitarian agencies properly. I believe that I heard the UK representative of UNHCR say last night that in January UNHCR launched an appeal asking for about £360 million and that only one-third has been received. What share of that appeal have the UK Government
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, that there are important lessons to be learnt, which I am sure we will continue to learn. With respect to her comments about the UNHCR appeal, I cannot give the detail that the noble Baroness requires but will write to her if there is any additional information I can provide. However, I can say that we are assisting the UNHCR. A total of 10 flights will be going in during the next week, some to transport UNHCR personnel, but others to assist the UNHCR in ensuring that blankets and so forth reach the right places. We have therefore been playing our part fully in supporting the UNHCR.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, will the Minister consider a small practical proposal which may be relevant to the meeting in Geneva? In the last war but one, there was an interesting document called the "Nansen passport". We understand that the regime in Kosovo has been depriving everybody crossing the border of their passports, their pieces d'identite and anything else that proves that they are citizens of Kosovo. When Milosevic was talking to the Russian Prime Minister, he said with some cynicism that anybody who could prove that they were Yugoslav citizens would of course be allowed to return. They have obviously made their best efforts to ensure that those people will be stateless. Can we consider making a proposal for something like a Nansen passport which will give them status and which will have to be accepted unless and until they can make some better arrangements?
There is one other minor matter that I want to raise. Although I utterly support the point in relation to resources, let us remember that we shall also need a lot more defence resources, and nobody ever mentions that.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, for her helpful suggestion. We will take it away and consider it carefully. Also, I can assure her that a registration process is ongoing in Albania, both in the north and south of the country. We are conscious of the need to ensure that we maintain proper records. I am sure that the Ministry of Defence agrees with the statement in regard to the need for more defence resources.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, I have a general political military question which comes to rest on the refugees. Everybody accepts that the NATO attack is not what caused the Serbian dictator to attack the Kosovars; that was taking place long before. But it gave rise to a great increase in the severity and atrocity of the attacks. The situation now is that Milosevic is attacking the Kosovars; we are attacking Milosevic.
Yesterday, or the day before, Milosevic made known to the world his proposals, not for peace but for a sort of ceasefire, which were announced by the Prime Minister of Russia after his visit; that is, if we stop
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I know that my noble friend Lord Kennet does not expect me to go into the kind of detail that his question implies. It has been made clear by NATO, by our own Secretary of State for Defence and others within the NATO alliance that that statement did not meet our requirements. I repeat: that statement did not meet our requirements.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating a Statement on humanitarian assistance, which is independent of the military situation. The House appreciates that and I hope there will be more such separate Statements on humanitarian affairs.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, mentioned the NGOs in Kosovo. Perhaps I can correct both her and myself. Since our debate last week, all the NGOs have left Kosovo--I speak for all the European NGOs--and, having had a word with three of them in UK agencies this afternoon, the situation is extremely delicate for them. They have almost no infrastructure in Albania, and Macedonia is now getting much more protection from NATO. Can the noble Baroness say whether the unit which has been set up jointly with the MoD is reflected in Brussels so that we have a joint action to protect the NGOs as much as the people of Kosovo who are fleeing? It would be helpful to have clarification of the role that NATO is playing in humanitarian assistance.
Finally, I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, said about UNHCR. We have all seen on our television screens how frail the UNHCR effort is. It enables us to ask the question: what is the United States, the senior partner in NATO, doing to support the humanitarian back-up which UNHCR should provide?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, with respect to the situation in Kosovo and the NGOs. The last two NGOs in Kosovo--MSF and International Red Cross--actually met last week. In terms of the situation in Albania and Macedonia, NGOs are continuing to work in those two countries. We are doing all we can to support their efforts on the ground. I can confirm that the United States is one of the international donors who has given a significant amount of aid, not only to the UNHCR but also to other NGOs, to the Red Cross and to the World Food Programme.
Lord McNair: My Lords, does the Minister have any information about the conditions the refugees will find when the camps are set up? I refer specifically--I suspect this is probably premature--to what the conditions in terms of drinking water will be? I should declare an interest because I have a connection with a company that manufactures mobile water purification equipment.
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