Kosovo

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:53 am on 5th May 1999.

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

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.