Germany's state interior ministers have reaffirmed their decision to start repatriating Bosnian refugees Oct. 1, despite protests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and human rights groups.
Meeting in Bonn Sept. 19, the ministers reached a consensus that the first phase of repatriation - the voluntary return of single people and childless couples - should begin as originally scheduled. Some states are ready to proceed with deportations, and last Thursday's decision gives them some discretion to do so.
Germany has 320,000 Bosnian refugees, more than any other country in Europe, and its states are feeling the financial strain of supporting them. Many of the refugees are on public assistance.
Human rights organizations argue that repatriation is premature because most of the refugees, up to 80 percent by some estimates, are Muslims who fled regions now under Bosnian Serb control and therefore cannot safely return to their homes.