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UNHCR to clear land mines in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Press releases

UNHCR to clear land mines in Bosnia and Herzegovina

26 March 1998

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that several teams of newly trained deminers will start lifting mines as soon as winter snows melt.

"Land mines, which kill and maim dozens of people each month, are a huge obstacle to return of refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina", said Mrs. Sadako Ogata, who heads UNHCR.

Ogata urged the donor community to spare no efforts to support mine clearance. "Mines represent the single most deadly heritage of the Bosnia war. The human and financial costs of dealing with mine injuries are enormous", she said.

UNHCR said Thursday that it was training six teams of deminers from different ethnic groups who will be deployed throughout the country to clear minefields in return areas. They will also alert returnees to the danger they face from land mines.

The governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina's two constituent entities, the Federation and the Republika Srpska, have been under considerable international pressure to speed up demining. However, only one percent of an estimated 750,000 land mines planted in 30,000 mine fields have been cleared since the war ended two-and-a-half years ago.

Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds have suffered severe injuries in mine accidents. Most will remain physically handicapped and psychologically scarred for the rest of their lives.

On Thursday, 26 March, the Geneva-based International Committee of Red Cross and UNHCR released a joint study on land mines in Bosnia titled "The Silent Menace", in an effort to highlight the humanitarian tragedy caused by land mines.