– in the House of Commons at 10:48 am on 5th May 1999.

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Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie

The immediate impetus for this Adjournment debate is last week's visit by the International Development Committee to Macedonia and Albania. It was, of course, a very moving visit, on which we saw the full scale of Milosevic's barbarity towards Kosovo. It was also a useful visit, in that a Committee of this House is now in close touch with that immensely important area and will be able to help the House, through first-hand knowledge, in its important deliberations on this matter. I hope that some of my colleagues who were on that visit will be able to catch your eye in this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We had access to all the major players in the area and I should like to thank them for their co-operation. One issue about which we were concerned—we made this clear on our return to Britain—was the number of refugees to be allowed into this country. I was disturbed that this country, which is risking so much to combat Milosevic's fascism, should be attracting criticism for seeming to do so little to accept refugees. While we were in the region, Britain was certainly not an option available to refugees, whereas other countries were being much more open. I am delighted that, following the Prime Minister's visit, that has been put right. It was uncomfortable to be urging the Macedonians to honour their international obligations when we were not clearly willing to pick up our own.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should be most grateful for your guidance on this matter. The title of the debate on the Order Paper refers only to neighbouring countries, but the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) has introduced into his dissertation the general subject of refugees and their admission to this country. I am sure that he is right so to do, and it is central to our discussion of the issue, but I should be grateful for your ruling on whether, in this context, Britain counts as a neighbouring country of Kosovo.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

It is clear to everyone that Britain is certainly not a neighbouring country. However, I would say that the two issues go together and the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) has been perfectly in order so far.

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie

I thank you for your predictable ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

If my speech appears to dwell more on Macedonia than Albania, it is not because Albania is unimportant. It is facing the greatest challenge in terms of numbers and is the poorest country in the region. Some of the challenges are common to both Albania and Macedonia, but there are some extra dimensions to the Macedonian position and I hope that other hon. Members will speak about Albania more fully than I shall.

It is absolutely clear that Milosevic's war game is to destabilise Macedonia. By far the most important political issue in Macedonia is the relationship between the numerically dominant Slays and the more rapidly growing Albanian population. There is a visceral fear among the Slavs that they will lose their dominance. After all, the refugee issue is not just one of the past few weeks. When I first went to Macedonia a few years ago, we were praising the Macedonians for their hospitality to Muslims fleeing from the Milosevic-inspired outrages in Bosnia. Now, nearly 200,000 Albanians have been pushed callously out of Kosovo into Macedonia. It is absolutely essential that Macedonia is stabilised if we are to ensure success in the conflict with Milosevic over Kosovo.

Unfortunately, during the Select Committee's visit to Macedonia and Albania, I found that not enough was being done internationally to focus on the issue. It is essential to military success in the Kosovo campaign that humanitarian, economic and political support for Macedonia is augmented. For example, if there is to be a ground approach by NATO troops, the Macedonian entry—which is linked to the Greek port of Thessaloniki—is a key matter. For years, the relationship between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been fraught—the very name indicates that—and it must be harmonised.

What should be done? Milosevic regards the destabilisation of Macedonia as a major prize, which is why he shoves Kosovars towards Macedonia. While we were there, trainloads were coming in—far more than the overfull camps could cope with. According to UNICEF, there are now nearly 200,000 refugees in Macedonia and, unbelievably, more than 90,000 are staying with Macedonian families while a similar number are in camps. When we were planning our trip the week before, the number was not 200,000, but 130,000 to 140,000. The number has soared in recent days as Milosevic has turned on the taps.

It has been argued that if the refugees were taken out of the region, that would be doing Milosevic's job for him. That argument lacks conviction; it is an arid argument. Such are the numbers that many refugees will remain in Macedonia anyway. It is not a case of either Macedonia or elsewhere; it is both. While I was there last week, an increasing number of refugee-bearing planes were flying out, but they were heavily outnumbered by Milosevic's new victims coming in.

Taking our full share of refugees is not the only reassurance that we can give Macedonia as an aid to winning this conflict. We must immensely strengthen the performance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in coping with the refugees in Macedonia. Frankly, the day was saved at the start by the British-inspired NATO forces putting up the camps in Macedonia. However, the refugee programme cannot be militarised other than in the short term. The other UN organisations and non-governmental organisations yearn for the UNHCR to be powered up for that huge job which, whatever happens in respect of the military effort, will be needed for at least many months. I saw no sign on the ground that the UNHCR had anywhere near the horsepower that it needed to cope with this huge challenge in the Balkans. Can the Minister give any reassurance on that?

We must also help out the Macedonian economy. At the outset of the crisis, Macedonia had 40 per cent. unemployment. Because of the crisis, it has now lost its export trade in food and textiles, which has to go through Serbia. Unemployment is now much higher. Huge numbers of refugees are now in Macedonian homes with no extra resources to sustain them. It is worth pointing out that, if one uses the index of 100, the Macedonian GDP was 100 in 1989 when Yugoslavia broke up, whereas it is now 60. The country is having to bear the cost of the transport, policing and many other aspects of the refugee crisis, yet it has less income than before the crisis.

Other problems loom—I was told that the biggest threat was that the sanitation system was incapable, in the long term, of coping with the extraordinary pressures put on it by the refugees. Life for the ordinary Macedonian is getting worse because of the huge influx by a feared minority. For how long will the Macedonians blame Milosevic rather than the Albanians? They need help in bearing the cost of that influx.

Recently, the European Union distributed aid to Albania and Montenegro, but Macedonia was left out because its books were not in order. To be told by the EU that one's books are not in order is a sick joke. Get the money out and monitor it scrupulously, but do not make a tragedy into a catastrophe by accountancy. Countries such as Macedonia and Albania need money now. Poor government capacity is an indication of the scale of the problem, not an excuse for inaction. Will the Government ensure that Macedonia, like Albania and Montenegro, will receive immediate budgetary support from the EU?

May I ask the Minister a more general question? Does he believe that the EU can play an active part at present, in the light of the collapse of the Commission? The Commission staff must feel so shell shocked by the revelations of poor behaviour that they are afraid to act decisively. Is there not a case for Heads of Government to agree on extra special measures to shift committed money out of Brussels and to get it working to good effect in the Balkans? I gather that a meeting will take place today in Paris with the World bank, the European Union and others to look at the structural support that will be needed for those countries.

The size of the camps—Kukes in Albania has about 1,000 residents—is putting an unreasonable strain on the infrastructure of these poor countries. It is not that the camps around Tirana are testing its sewerage system to the limit, because Tirana does not have a sewerage system. The health threats in the summer are considerable. We cannot expect NGOs and United Nations organisations to deal with major civil engineering and governmental tasks. NATO stepped in early to rescue the situation in the camps, but development should not be militarised. I should be grateful to hear from the Minister how these structural issues are to be tackled.

These countries cannot be asked to cope with a million refugees by providing new roads, power, water, sewerage and other systems that are not linked into the infrastructure for the whole population. It is inevitable and right that the host population should benefit from the development of the infrastructure that will be necessary for the refugees.

We all hope that the war will be rapidly resolved, and that the refugees will be able to return home. However, we shall not be forgiven if we do not plan for the worst. At the moment, we cannot produce enough tents or sites to house the ever-growing number of refugees. The refugees will not be able to live in tents in the Balkan winter, and we have seen that some of the sites are already unsuitable. They are in the wrong location, have poor water facilities and inadequate sanitation, and places for latrines are already running out.

Long-term camps require education facilities, better health services, including reproductive health services, and attention for people's psychosocial needs. We are desperately trying to provide primitive accommodation for those expelled from Kosovo, but we may soon have to start again. Hundreds of thousands of refugees may have to be rehoused in winter quarters that do not yet exist, either in fact or even on paper.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon

Does my hon. Friend welcome the doubling of funds by the British Government to help to meet the costs of the refugee crisis? Does he accept that a further doubling of funds may be necessary very soon? Will he give the House some assessment of the resources that should be made available immediately and in the longer term for the management of the refugee crisis and the eventual rebuilding of Kosovo?

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie

Of course I welcome the doubling of the funds. What I am trying to get across in my speech is the fact that we cannot approach this matter only on the military and the humanitarian front. A major improvement of the infrastructure is required, and that cannot be organised by NGOs. It must be done by major international organisations, such as the World bank and the European Union, but I need convincing that they are geared up for what will happen not in the coming months, but in the coming weeks so that they can provide what is needed for the Balkan winter.

I came back from the Balkans with mixed emotions: anger at the despicable actions of Milosevic; admiration for the courage of the refugees; intense respect for the humanitarian work of UN organisations, such as the World Food Programme; pride in the work being done by the British NGOs; and admiration for the organisational skills of NATO in rescuing the humanitarian situation. I came back utterly determined that we should recognise and respond to all the dimensions of this problem, and not merely restrict ourselves to the humanitarian and military aspects. Much more is needed.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park 11:14 am, 5th May 1999

I was not on the Select Committee visit to the Balkans at the beginning of last week, because I had already accepted an invitation to visit Tirana in Albania, sponsored by the European Children's Trust. After consultation with the Chairman of the Select Committee, I felt that that would add an extra dimension and provide a different view of what is going on out there, so I went on my own to Tirana.

In passing, I should like to mention the European Children's Trust, which gave me the only good news of my visit. It has been working in Romania since the problems there began, and it is now closing orphanages because it has found good foster homes for the children. Many of their natural parents who abandoned them have come back to claim them. I wanted to begin on a bright note to show that there is a little light at the end of some of these tunnels.

Tirana was away from the front line, which was interesting because the refugees there had had an opportunity to reflect on their future and had recovered a little from the initial shock, although they were still pretty dazed. The city council in Tirana was assessing what was needed for its own people and for the refugees. In 1997, the population of Tirana was 250,000, and it had the infrastructure—social services, education and health services—that more or less catered for that number. By 1999, the population had almost doubled to 450,000, and in the past month, 43,000 refugees have come into Tirana city-—25 per cent. of the population have come to Tirana in a few weeks. Of those refugees, 33 per cent. are in host families—they are staying with anyone who will have them.

Host families in Albania have an average income of £15 a month, and some of them are catering for two or three families. I visited the Sipri family, who are a family of three. They are unemployed, because there is very little work in Tirana. They live in a tiny, two-roomed flat, and because of their son's long-standing link with a family of six, including two children, they welcomed them into their tiny flat and were feeding and coping with them on £15 a month.

I also visited what was described to me as a model refugee camp. It was a small camp on the site of the old Tirana municipal swimming pool, which no longer had any water in it. It was built for 2,000 by UNHCR, but it already had 3,000 refugees in it and others were moving in every day. When I visited, the mud was drying up and the sun was coming out, so it was looking a little better, but there were 20 latrines for more than 3,000 people which, as the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) reminded us, could cause infections and other problems in the summer months. It was desperately overcrowded, and there were no cooking facilities and no hot water. I think that the Select Committee saw a better refugee camp in Rwanda when we visited that country last year. The camp I saw in Tirana was appalling, yet it was described as a model camp.

The men in the camp were unanimous: they wanted to have guns and to join the Kosovo Liberation Army so that they could get back to Kosovo to fight for freedom. On the whole, the women wanted to stay in Albania, because they had small children. They were also worried about their families, and they wanted to stay put until they knew what had happened to them.

I visited a women's hospital with its director, Dr. Kallajxhi. It was one of the worst places I have ever seen; Florence Nightingale would have been ashamed. It is the main women's hospital for Tirana, the capital city of Albania. It was dirty, there were building works all over the place—even above and below the wards where women were giving birth—and very few painkillers were available, so the women who had suffered so much coming out of Kosovo were not getting any relief in childbirth. Most of the equipment was 20 years old.

The hospital was catering for the people of Tirana as well as for the refugees, which made it difficult because it did not have the staff. Many of the women were having abortions: many were having to have extensive gynaecological repairs and some were having hysterectomies because of the damage they had suffered after having been raped by Serbian soldiers. It was a distressing visit, and quite honestly the conditions in that hospital beggared belief.

At the end of my visit, I met Mr. Orhan Sakiqi, who is the head of the Tirana municipal council, and together we came to some conclusions. I appreciate that this is a small

area of the whole problem, but I felt that it would be useful to list the things that we believed were needed, especially in the medium and long term.

According to all those to whom I spoke, registration is a problem. As has been said, the UNHCR is not considered to be performing terribly well in Albania. Most of the refugees whom I met in Tirana had no papers, because they were not being processed—as we were told that they were—as the refugees crossed the border. The refugees were stuck with host families, with no identity and no papers. Some would like to come to the United Kingdom, but not many, because few of their friends and families are here owing to the United Kingdom's asylum and immigration policies over the past 10 years. That is one of the reasons why a number of them want to go to Germany. That is our fault, and we should be doing something about it.

The Sipri family, whom I visited, would like to go to Germany, where they have relatives, but they cannot do so because they have no papers. No one seemed to know how to remedy the problem, even the people in the municipality.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

There is no substitute for direct evidence. Let me ask a question, without any overtones. The hon. Lady spoke of rapes committed by Serbian soldiers. There seems to be considerable dispute about that, and I do not know the truth. Doubtless some rapes have taken place, but did the hon. Lady have direct evidence of rape committed by Serbian soldiers on a significant scale?

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

I appreciate that it is a difficult question. Before I came to the House, I worked in gynaecology and family planning, and I know that it is sometimes difficult to assess the truth of what people say. Because I was in the area for only a short time, I heard the story directly from only a few people, but the evidence is that the same story is being told all over the place by all sorts of women who have had no contact with each other. A fortnight ago, some of us met two professionals, a paediatrician and a journalist, who had come from Kosovo. They had a good deal of evidence. There is certainly medical evidence in the hospital to which I referred that women have been brutalised, raped and then mutilated, and it was alleged that the Serbs had done it. That is all that I can say in answer to the hon. Gentleman.

Let me return to the problem of identity. The Government must put pressure on the UNHCR to get its act together and ensure that those people are registered.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

What my hon. Friend has said about the camps in Albania coincides with my experience in Macedonia. Record keeping and being able to trace refugees and record their stories are indeed problems, but, now that the necessary information technology is available, could that not be done largely out of country? Should not western countries be employing people to maintain databases, and relieve some of the pressure on the Albanians, the Macedonians and the relief agencies?

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

The thought crossed my mind as well. I cannot see why the details of people's past lives, homes and businesses cannot be recorded in England or Germany as easily as in Tirana or somewhere in Macedonia. I agree with my hon. Friend: surely computer technology could help. This is one of the most urgent problems for the refugees, who do not know where to turn, and are forced to remain non-people. They do not exist, and it is not possible to help people who do not exist.

As I have said, I was appalled by the state of the refugee camps. I am sure that our Government are putting pressure on the UNHCR to improve them, but I was interested by the Albanians' suggestion that smaller camps should be built to reflect the village communities that existed in Kosovo, and to keep people together so that they could give each other support.

One of my main worries is the lack of help for the tens of thousands of host families in Albania who are trying to manage on meagre incomes and looking after all the refugees. I do not know how long their patience will last. The European Children's Trust has developed a scheme whereby families' needs are assessed and a recommendation is made; they are then given direct financial help to buy food which is available in Albania, and any other supplies that they need. I urge our Government in particular to consider schemes that would enable us to help host families directly to support the refugees.

As for education, health and social services, there is a network—in other countries that we visited, there is no such network—but it is entirely inadequate. There are thousands of refugee doctors, nurses and teachers who can work and want to help their own people, but there is the matter of paying them a little to do so. Pressure should be put on all the authorities to mobilise the professionals in the refugee group to help with social services in Albania.

There is also an urgent need for medical equipment and medicines. I hope that our constituencies, including mine, will want to do something identifiable, rather than just giving money to an anonymous appeal. They could, for instance, focus on a hospital that badly needs updating, and some decent equipment and medicines. Europe, and our Government, could help with that as well.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon

The hon. Lady has told us about the present arrangements for the accommodation of refugees in Albanian host families and elsewhere. Given the state of the camps and the difficulties experienced by the host families, is there any prospect of accommodation being arranged there for refugees in the medium and longer term, or is the UNHCR right in saying that such accommodation can only be temporary and provisional, and that it will soon be necessary to move many of the refugees to other countries in western Europe?

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

There are two aspects to the question. Some refugees, having reflected, are beginning to think that they would be better off in another country; but it was emphasised to me—although I spoke to only a small sample—that they wanted that to be on a temporary basis, especially the women and children.

As I said, the Albanians have suggested the establishment of medium to long-term villages, providing slightly better accommodation than tents—perhaps prefabricated buildings such as those that we had just after the war—so that people could live in village communities. They would then be able to stay in the area among people they knew, and to return to Kosovo that much more quickly.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said that the Albanians, and indeed the Macedonians, would not tolerate the influx of people even poorer than themselves indefinitely. They are responding magnificently now, but that may not last for ever, and there could be civil unrest. One of the most moving things said to me during my short visit was said by Mr. Sakiqi, the leader of Tirana council. He said, "Whatever Europe does, the Kosovars are our brothers, and we welcome them." The Albanian people have set us an example with their generosity and kindness, but we must realise that there is a huge financial implication for the future, and we must know where the money will come from. I trust that the Government will not make the Department for International Development contingency reserve meet the cost in the medium and long term. The money must come from the Treasury reserves; it cannot come out of the development budget. One thing is certain: we need to plan for the long term, and we need to plan quickly.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley 11:29 am, 5th May 1999

I am sure that all hon. Members wish that the war had never been necessary. For a long time, we tried to negotiate with Milosevic and the Yugoslav Government in an attempt to reach some accommodation that would ensure that the ethnic cleansing that we are witnessing would not continue, but it was anticipated as far back as July 1995 that there would be refugees. One of the interesting things that we learned during our latest visit was that a disaster contingency plan had been drawn up as far back as July 1995 for 300,000 refugees from Kosovo to Albania and Macedonia. Hon. Members may well ask what happened to that plan.

The plan was jointly organised by the World Food Programme and the UNHCR. The programme has done its job in relation to the plan because there is no shortage of food and it is preparing to feed many thousands of refugees for months ahead, not only if they remain in Albania and Macedonia, but if, by some good chance, the war ends and they are able to return to their country.

Even if the war were to finish tomorrow, the refugees would have to be fed in Kosovo for about 16 months after their return because they have missed the planting season. Before they are able to plant again, obviously, they will need to be fed by the World Food Programme.

I wonder what happened to the plan. The meetings between the World Food Programme, the UNHCR and various other agencies were supposed to continue every three months. One of the things that are obvious to us after visiting the region twice in the past two weeks is that The UNHCR, for various reasons, has been caught short.

As some of my hon. Friends have mentioned, there is a shortage of tents in Albania. When we were there last week, 9,000 people were out in the open without cover. The UNHCR told us that there was a shortage of tents. There are other shortages. Refugees in both Macedonia and Albania are in overcrowded conditions. In Macedonia, the population in the camps is three times the density that the UNHCR considers acceptable.

Last week, I went to some of the camps for the second time in 10 days. What is clear is that, with the present numbers that are flooding across the border, it is impossible for the existing camps to contain such numbers of people. Aid workers were saying to me that they wanted us to know that refugees had been threatening hunger strikes, or to burn some of the tents down unless things improved in the camps.

As the NATO commander made clear to us, there is a small window of opportunity. Only a few months are left to get people out of the camps before the winter comes. Unless they get out, when the winter comes, they will freeze to death. At the end of August, there will be the short-term problem of making arrangements for the winter.

On my first visit to the camps, people told me that their choice of country would have been the United Kingdom if that choice had been available to them, but that they had chosen other countries. In one case, a university professor and his family of three had been forced out of their home. He was forced out of his job at a museum by the Serbs, who brought a letter to him one day and said that he had no job. He went back to his home village and lived in a house with his family. One day, the paramilitaries came and burnt it down.

The professor then hid in a basement for two months. The paramilitaries came down that street as well and he had to flee. He and his family spent three nights on the road and in a forest, and many other nights in the open on the border. He said that he had been separated from his 90-year-old mother.

As hon. Members know, it is a story that many other people in the camps can tell: a story of separations and losses. They do not know where their children or elderly parents are. In some cases, their husbands were kept behind; they believe that they are now dead. All those refugees have stories of tragedy.

The refugees go to the camps and are asked which third country they would be ready to go to. That professor told me that he had been given a form and had put down Norway as his first choice because, as he said, although not in an accusatory way, the refugees understood that Britain did not want them. I met a man who was in another camp with his family, who put down Germany as his first choice. He was told that Britain was not an option. I asked the UNHCR people on the spot, who said that they had put down countries as options only if those countries had specified a quota.

Going there the second time, I picked up a form in one of the UNHCR tents where refugees were filling in their details. Of course, the vast majority have no papers at all: no passports, no identity cards—nothing to prove their identity. They were filling in forms for UNHCR.

I turned over one form. Again, it had the same list of countries on the back, and someone had written in biro—I presume that it must have been a refugee-"England." I have said many times how ashamed I was that the refugees thought that the United Kingdom did not want them, so I am delighted that the Prime Minister has stated that we are ready to take several thousand refugees, without specifying a quota. That is good news. I am pleased that he saw for himself the needs of those refugees and how impossible it is for countries such as Macedonia, which has 2.2 million people, to absorb such numbers.

Sixty per cent. of refugees are already in private homes in Macedonia. Again, the hospitality of the people who have taken refugees into their homes, in both Macedonia and Albania, has to be commended. However, it puts

enormous strains on families. Twenty-seven refugees were living in one home with two bedrooms. Obviously, that cannot go on because it strains the host family. They do not have the money to support those people. Some of my hon. Friends have talked about the low incomes in both Macedonia and Albania. We are now saying that we will be generous to the refugees who want to come to Britain. I am pleased about that.

In Albania, I was told by our embassy that we were giving no visas. Indeed, people who approach the embassy for visas are told to go to Istanbul. I hope that that is something that my hon. Friend the Minister will look into. It seems utter nonsense that we are sending people to Istanbul to apply for visas.

Last week, people were telephoning me from Manchester, including the wife of a man from Kosovo who has lived in this country for more than 10 years. He went to Albania to get his elderly parents who, two months ago, had come across from Kosovo. He was told that he could not get a visa to bring them back to Britain. Again, such incidents have to be investigated.

The strain on the Macedonian Government cannot be over-emphasised. As I have said, it is a small country of 2.2 million people. It is very poor, with 40 per cent. unemployment. It is having to pay for the transport of refugees to the camps and for the policing of those camps. The Deputy Foreign Minister, who spoke to us, mentioned the extra man hours for policing and the hospital treatment for refugees that Macedonia had to pay for. As my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said, it is no longer able to export many of its goods to other countries.

In Macedonia, 87 contracts with EU countries have been cancelled. The Minister told us that he was afraid for the political stability of his country. It is right that we give countries such as Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania as much economic aid as possible. They must be assisted in dealing with the vast numbers of refugees who are flooding into their countries.

The UNHCR has a problem, although I do not know quite what it is; it may be understaffing. I have the greatest respect for UN agencies, as do my hon. Friends, but the UNHCR's role in this and what happened to the disaster preparedness plan must be investigated in the future.

I have been to many refugee camps and I have seen much worse; I can be realistic about the situation in which the Kosovars now find themselves. Many of the Kurds who fled across the mountains from Iraq into Iran 10 years ago are still in refugee camps in Iran. It is unlikely that Kosovars will return home in vast numbers before Kosovo is rebuilt.

Obviously, I hope that the war will soon be over, although I still consider that ground troops are essential. I said so on 14 January in the House and I have not changed my mind. I am sure that were the Prime Minister to obtain the backing of other EU countries, he would be ready to use those ground troops. The Americans' attitude is amazingly ambivalent. This is not the first time that they have been enthusiastic for a particular war, only to back off. Our Prime Minister is resolute. He completely opposes the hideous ethnic cleansing in which Milosevic is engaged.

I agree with the Government line that Milosevic must be defeated, that Kosovo must be a safe place to which the Kosovars can return, and that we must give Kosovo, and possibly Serbia when the war is over, as much economic aid as possible. In the meantime, we must persist in defeating what we all know, at the end of the 20th century, is no longer acceptable in Europe.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea 11:43 am, 5th May 1999

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) refers, in the long title of his debate, to "Humanitarian and economic effects". I subsume those broadly into the social consequences of a huge tide of refugees. I understood you to rule, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it would be within order to discuss the impact that that may have on the United Kingdom.

Hon. Members may recall a rather peculiar incident that took place on the quayside at Calais some three months ago involving an exchange of fire between people whom the French police later identified as Kosovars, as a result of which some British tourists were injured. That gave rise to various questions, such as how they got there, what were they doing and how they had managed to come as far as the English channel carrying firearms.

Further inquiries disclosed that it was quite normal for British tourists returning home and lorry drivers with British registered vehicles to be intimidated, sometimes at gunpoint, by Kosovar refugees who want to enter the United Kingdom in their vehicles. That was before any announcement had been made on the acceptance of refugees.

That brings me to a subject to which the House must continue to direct its attention. I see from today's papers that MI6 and the other intelligence services are also involved. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has already reminded the House of certain findings of the German police authorities and Interpol regarding the high level of criminal infiltration in the KLA by Balkan criminal elements mainly concerned with drugs, immigration rackets and prostitution.

We know that a high criminal infiltration in any body results in a breakdown into gang warfare. The events on the quayside at Calais had every appearance of gang or factional warfare. For that reason, I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, for whom I have huge respect, will not take it personally when I say that I wish that a Home Office Minister was present beside him who could pay some regard to my points. In the fullness of time, the criminality that pervades the KLA will be a matter of prime importance for consideration by the Government and the House of Commons.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

It might be unreasonable to ask the Minister to comment in any kind of detail, but some of us do ask the Government for a statement on Tim Butcher's report in The Daily Telegraph today on MI6, and on the recurring reports that there is an investigation by Interpol and the Bundeskriminalamt Verfassungschutz. At least we should have the assurance that the Government take the matter seriously.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea

I hope that the Minister will infer from what I have said that that would be welcome.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

All I want to say at this stage is that Ministers in my Department are in close touch with Home Office Ministers about all the issues, and Home Office Ministers will take account of all that is said in this debate relating to their responsibilities.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea

I am grateful to the Minister for responding at this stage.

I listened with great concern to the first-hand accounts of visiting the camps by the hon. Members for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), and for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd). The hon. Members for Richmond Park and for Cynon Valley spoke movingly and I would in no way impugn their testimony to the House. However, did not the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie have any intimation of the degree of intimidation and gang dominance within the camps?

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley said that she had heard from the Macedonian authorities that there was a threat of a hunger strike or of burning down the tents. Who is organising that threat? Why should perfectly ordinary decent people in a high level of distress consider starving themselves and their children and burning down the accommodation that has been provided by the great generosity of the west? I suggest that it is because they have been threatened and told that that is what they must do if they want to get into line and stay safe.

My evidence is anecdotal. I have not visited the camps myself. One of my sons is a soldier and, as the House knows, there is general gossip and an exchange of information among the services. He has given me anecdotal evidence of drug trafficking, violence and intimidation, and, in particular, the trawling of camps and the removal of likely candidates for prostitution rackets. Such things are habitual and recognised. I see the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie shifting in his seat. I hope that he will feel able to comment briefly on that.

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie

The camps are ripe for the kind of activity to which the right hon. Gentleman refers if we do not get the situation there right. If we simply allow things to go on as they are, they will become recruiting grounds for the KLA. Something similar happened in Rwanda and elsewhere. That is why I was emphasising the much more important point—rather than the issue that the right hon. Gentleman is stressing—that the vast majority of people in the camps are destitute and that appalling things have been done to them. We should concentrate on that point.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and should not for a moment dispute the tenor of his comments. However, I feel that the House should be aware of the very high level and very wide diffusion of criminality within the camps and within the itinerant refugee bodies themselves.

When the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie says that we have to "get it right", I assume that he means that provision of direct aid to those bodies is not of itself sufficient, but that there will have to be a level of policing. There is no doubt that the flow, when it comes, of those people into equable and democratic western societies will cause enormous trouble, as it contains within it many people who are simply taking advantage of the situation to operate drug trafficking.

There has always been a very close link between the Albanian mafia, the Calabrian mafia in southern Italy, and drugs are the most portable and easily traded form of wealth. The moment that people get into that type of racketeering, violence, murder and intimidation follow. We have to be extremely careful to guard against such developments.

Magistrates in my constituency are already going out of their way to tell me of their experience in the London courts with Albanians affecting to claim refugee status. Those Albanians are being indoctrinated and told what to say by one or two groups of solicitors in the capital, who are clearly retained by criminal elements that are a part of the overall structure. They know how to ask for interpreters, to claim that they are below the appropriate age and to assert totally unjustified charges of racism, although they have been apprehended for genuinely criminal acts.

The House should be aware that the current situation is as good an opportunity as any for those groups. If we are not careful in our generous impulses—which are always one of the Chamber's most valuable responses to particularly objectionable crises; and first-hand testimony of which we have heard from hon. Members today—we shall be making ourselves vulnerable to a very great criminal influx.

I am glad that the Minister has said that the matter will be properly reported and that proper liaison on it will be made with the Home Office. It is an aspect of the whole tragic affair that—because it is so widely diffused, and the element of violence is so overt—our Government should be considering very seriously as they approach it.

Photo of Ms Tess Kingham Ms Tess Kingham Labour, Gloucester 11:53 am, 5th May 1999

This is one of those rare occasions when I decide—halfway through a debate, after hearing hon. Members' speeches—to make a completely different speech from the one that I had planned on making. I should like very briefly to address the issue of psychosocial support, mental health and psychological support for refugees in camps and in host families in Macedonia and Albania. The issue may not seem relevant to the debate, but it is, and I hope that you will be patient with me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and allow me to develop the argument.

Early in the NATO military campaign, I asked in the House whether psychosocial support would be provided very early for refugees, to ensure stability in the camps and in the surrounding areas, and when the refugees have returned to their homes in Kosovo. After visiting the camps and surrounding areas in Macedonia and Albania, and after speaking to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross, the World Health Organisation and refugees themselves, I am more convinced than ever that we have to co-ordinate psychosocial support and ensure that refugees receive at a very early stage the mental health support and counselling that they need.

The refugees have witnessed, or been victims of, a series of acts of terror. They have seen massacres. When we were at the Blace border crossing, we spoke to people who had seen piles of dead bodies by the roadside in villages around Lipjan. They have also witnessed beatings and threats. We spoke to refugees who said that the Serbs had daily entered their homes, holding guns to their

children's heads and saying, "Shall I shoot them today, mother? No—not today, but maybe tomorrow." After a few days of that type of intimidation, they left their homes.

The refugees have experienced rape. I was quite shocked to hear some of the comments on rape and intimidation made earlier in the debate. It is well known that women, particularly from the Muslim community and in a culture in which rape is deeply shaming, will not just come out and tell all and sundry that they have been raped. Rape is therefore very difficult to verify in such societies. Sometimes, the truth comes out only after months or years.

We spoke also to refugees whose homes were burnt, who saw their animals being killed, and who had been separated from their families. One of the most moving moments was seeing the long list of lost children, aged two to 18, posted outside the International Committee of the Red Cross building.

The refugees are in a state of shock and suffering from acute anxiety. Those are symptoms of the first stage of being terrorised, and become apparent particularly when one speaks to the old men in the camps or in host families—halfway through a logical conversation, tears start streaming down their faces. That happened with almost everyone with whom I spoke in the camps. At some point in the conversation, they cried uncontrollably. It was not sobbing, but uncontrollable tears.

We have been told by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture that the refugees are suffering acute anxiety, and that they need psychosocial help and mental health counselling and support. They need that help now, and they need it to be delivered in an organised and co-ordinated manner. The refugees will continue to suffer anxiety, panic attacks and flashbacks, and possibly ill health.

We have already heard about the camps destabilising economic and social effects in Macedonia. The camps that we visited were surrounded by fences. The Macedonian authorities tried to keep the camps as far away as possible from the rest of the population. People are not allowed at will out of the camps, which are quite tense places. Because of the volatility of the situation in Macedonia and the effects of the refugee influx on the local population, the Macedonian Government move most refugee convoys and equipment at night.

If mental health support is not provided to refugees now, there will be many and various severe consequences. Organisations such as the Red Cross, the World Health Organisation and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture have stated that the consequences of not providing help now will be manifested in several ways, such as in violent outbursts. The right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) was perhaps right to say that there are violent outbursts in the camps; but many of those may be caused by pent-up trauma and lack of psychological support.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

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 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.

Photo of Ms Tess Kingham Ms Tess Kingham Labour, Gloucester

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.

Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, 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.

Photo of Ms Tess Kingham Ms Tess Kingham Labour, Gloucester

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 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.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow 12:03 pm, 5th May 1999

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?

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 12:06 pm, 5th May 1999

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 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. 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 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?

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development 12:16 pm, 5th May 1999

I am deeply indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) for initiating this debate, which the Government welcome. In the time that the House has generously provided for me, I will try to provide answers to all the questions. If I am unable to do so, I undertake that either I or one of my colleagues from another Department will write to the hon. Members concerned. That will include the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in relation to nuclear power plants. I should have liked to answer that question but, in the time available, I was unable to do so. I can assure my hon. Friend that someone will write to him.

As the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) rightly said, we are facing the most acute crisis in Europe since 1945. More than 1 million people have been evicted from their homes. Thousands have been killed, and hundreds of women raped. I am surprised that anyone has questioned those figures, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Ms Kingham) and to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) for confirming them. Thousands of people have been separated from their families.

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow that, for more than a year, we tried to find a diplomatic solution. We called on Milosevic to stop attacking and persecuting his own people. He refused. At the end of the day, we had a duty to act to help those people who were being persecuted, killed and maimed. We have acted on that duty, and none of us in the Government apologises for that. The scale of the resulting crisis is clear, but let there be no doubt in the House; Milosevic is responsible for the crisis and the suffering.

I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie that this is a timely debate. As he and others have said, a donors' conference is taking place today in Paris, considering specifically the needs of Macedonia. I expect that there will be a similar conference on Albania soon.

The UK has an important role in the conference, as well as in the medium and long-term support for the region. However, that is along with other donors. We must not forget that, as well as the bilateral donors, the EU and the international financial institutions have a responsibility. The UK should not take it all upon ourselves in dealing with the problem. At the donors' conference, we will pledge a further £5 million from the know-how fund to improve the administration within Macedonia and to make the country more able to cope with the problems to which the hon. Member for South-West Devon referred.

Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow

We all appreciate that aid is needed and, after the conference, we may have a clearer idea of the scale of the money to be given. However, I am concerned about the comparison of what is being given with the costs. The Home Office has said that this country will spend more than £600 million this year on support for asylum seekers; and that is supporting maybe 50,000 people. When we compare that figure with the problems in Macedonia and Albania, it suggests the scale of aid that might be needed.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

I will deal with that point, but it is important to deal first with the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and others about our position on taking in refugees. There has been some misunderstanding of the Government's position. There has been no policy change. Not having a quota does not mean an unwillingness to take refugees; indeed, quotas can easily be used as an upper limit.

We have said all along that the vast majority of refugees should remain in the region, as is their own wish—they said that to members of the Select Committee and to the Prime Minister—ready to return when the NATO campaign has succeeded. We in Britain have given more help on the ground than most other countries. We recognise that some refugees need to be airlifted out: especially the vulnerable, those with particular medical conditions and those with family connections in the United Kingdom. Above all, only those who want to come here must be brought; it must be voluntary. We were concerned that some people were being shipped out against their will. That certainly must not happen.

That humanitarian response has always been our intention. Two planes came in last week, to Leeds-Bradford airport and to East Midlands airport. I want to thank all those involved in receiving the refugees, including the Refugee Council, local authorities and local Members of Parliament. We are now able to increase the pace of our humanitarian response because the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration have been able to process more requests.

Departments, local authorities and voluntary organisations are now ready to receive more people, so we can go up from two planes a week to four a week, and ultimately one a day over the next few weeks.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea

If, as is proper, the Minister is consulting local authorities and others and getting their consent, will he not also feel obliged, for reasons of both practicality and honour, to assure those authorities that a proper screening process will be set in train, to prevent infiltration by criminal elements and by those who, as I have warned the House, will be intimidating refugees, and whom their own people will obviously be reluctant to reveal?

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

A Home Office team will go to the region—this weekend, I expect—to help with the screening, working with the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration.

Those who come will get exceptional leave to stay and will be able to receive social security and to work. The next two plane loads will arrive at Prestwick airport on Sunday and will then go to Clydebank and to Glasgow.

Let me assure my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley that the fact that Britain was not on the list at the beginning and had to be added in biro was an administrative oversight on the ground in Macedonia—I apportion no blame—which, I am glad to say, has now been rectified.

I was asked about the level of assistance that we are giving. The Prime Minister announced a further £20 million, which several hon. Members have welcomed today, bringing the total since the conflict started to £40 million. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) that we are willing to consider further requests for funds as the need arises.

I can confirm for the hon. Members for Richmond Park and for South-West Devon that the latest funds do not come out of my Department's budget. We are not taking away help that should rightly continue to go to those in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. We try to ensure that the help that we give on the ground helps host families and the host countries as much as possible.

I join the hon. Member for South-West Devon in congratulating the British people on contributing £28 million through the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal. That, in a matter of days, is a phenomenal response, and shows their concern for the plight of refugees; indeed, they have contributed to other appeals, too. I know that many people want to give medicine or gifts, but money is what is needed. They would do better to sell what they might otherwise give and raise money so that what is needed can be procured locally, wherever possible.

We have an unparalleled record of providing help on the ground. We have flown 40 airlifts so far, providing tents, blankets, food, and medical and emergency supplies, with more on the way. I am proud to say, in this Red Cross week, that we have given £2.5 million to the Red Cross for relief and for family tracing, to get families back together. Scores of families have already been reunited, and more will be.

We are providing an airport logistics cell at Tirana, an aircraft handling package at Skopje, and a convoy of five trucks. We have helped to set up two camps in Macedonia and we are setting one up in Albania. We are establishing contingency stockpiles of food, tents and blankets. There are scores of Department for International Development staff on the ground.

We are providing funds to the World Food Programme, to UNICEF and to international voluntary organisations. We are helping with radio programmes to give information to the refugees and providing free radios. Hon. Members can be proud of what the Government are doing in this very difficult situation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie urged us to give additional help to the UNHCR. There have been some criticisms of the UNHCR, and Mrs. Ogata, its head, has accepted that it is not perfect, but we should recognise that we are dealing with an unprecedented exodus. I can confirm today that, following the Prime Minister's visit, substantial further funds will be made available for the UNHCR. He hopes to talk to Mrs. Ogata about that. We are keen to help the organisation to overcome any weaknesses that have been identified and to provide the psychosocial help to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester referred.

I have been asked about European Union funds. Our officials are today working on a specific remit to unblock the 25 million euros for Macedonia. It is important to remove the blockage as quickly as possible. I am sure that the hon. Member for South-West Devon will be pleased that the Adam Smith Institute is providing the help to try to get the Macedonian Government's books in some kind of order.

We recognise that the conflict affects not only Macedonia and Albania but the other front-line states, as the hon. Member for South-West Devon said. We recognise the need for long-term assistance, and we have already started discussions on that. The countries concerned are European countries and need to be integrated into the wider European and global framework, with political and economic stability in the long term. Membership of European and international organisations is vital to that end.

In the longer term, it is important to have a stability pact in south-east Europe. Proposals for such a pact will be discussed at a meeting of senior officials in Bonn on 27 May.

No one, and least of all Milosevic, should be in any doubt that we will continue our campaign until the Serb troops are withdrawn, there is an international force in place and the Kosovars can return in safety to rebuild their shattered lives. Meanwhile, we will continue to play our full part in helping the refugees on the ground and in the United Kingdom. They want NATO to succeed, above all, as they want to return to their homes. We will continue until they can do so in safety.