Don't Victimize the Victims

NO self-respecting nation would want to cooperate with the "ethnic cleansing" being carried out by Serbian forces in Bosnia. But does an open-door policy toward Balkan refugees play into the hand of the "cleansers," as some in the West argue?

In this political calculus, actual human lives are too easily discounted. The people displaced by the fighting in Bosnia have no other recourse than refuge abroad. Safe havens within Bosnia are nonexistent for its Muslim population. Almost all the country's territory is controlled by Serb and Croatian militias.

The nearest country of asylum, Croatia, has declared that it can accommodate no more fleeing Bosnians. More than 600,000 refugees are already in Croatia. Thousands are now being turned back.

Croatia's refusal to accept more people is regrettable, given the fear and deprivation endured by those huddled at its borders. The United Nations has asked it to reconsider. But the Croatians have a point. Greatly increased international aid is needed to supply and equip refugee facilities within Croatia. More important, countries outside the Balkans must open their borders to the Bosnians.

Britain and France, for example, have loudly decried the atrocities that have caused people to flee their homes, but they have been willing to take in only small numbers of the victims. The United States recently agreed to accept 1,000 Bosnian refugees in the coming year; that, too, falls far short of what's needed.

Washington and its allies must show a readiness to give aslym to enough Bosnians to relieve the immediate crunch and encourage Croatia to again offer first asylum.

Despite clear violations of human rights treaties within Bosnia, the international community has shown itself unwilling to intervene directly against ethnic cleansing and thus get at the root cause of the refugee flows. The least that concerned nations can do is immediately extend a helping hand to men, women, and children who have no choice but to flee.

Politically, that may be an unpopular choice at home; morally, it's inescapable.

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