Red Cross Will Be To Asked to Investigate Conditions in Suriname With AM-US-Suriname
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) _ The government will ask the International Red Cross to decide if conditions exist in Suriname to allow 8,000 refugees to return from neighboring French Guiana, a government minister said Wednesday.
Foreign Affairs Minister Henk Heidweiller said France had suggested two days ago that the Red Cross become involved and that his government decided to accept the proposal.
Refugees started pouring into French Guiana, a French territory, in October after a guerrilla group led by former army private Ronny Brunswijk started attacks on government installations in Suriname.
Brunswijk is trying to oust Suriname’s military leader, Lt. Col Desi Bouterse, who took power in a 1980 coup that overturned the elected government of this former Dutch colony located on the northeast shoulder of South America.
Suriname officials insisted that refugee leaders attending a meeting in Cayenne, French Guiana’s capital, last week said they were willing to leave French soil.
But many refugees had made it clear earlier they would not return until Bouterse is no longer in power.
Heidweiller was unable to say when representatives of the International Red Cross team might arrive in Suriname.
He said only that ″both governments (France and Suriname) will request the International Red Cross to investigate conditions in Suriname under which the refugees may return.″
Suriname will ask European Economic Community nations to help finance the return of the refugees, he said.
Most of the refugees are camped in or near the French Guiana town of St. Laurent and south of St. Laurent along the Maroni River, a natural border between French Guiana and Suriname.
French Guiana Gov. Jacques Dewatre has said that France was spending between $490,000 and $820,000 a month to pay for food, clothing and shelter of the refugees.
Most of the refugees are Bush Negroes, about one-eighth of Suriname’s 400,000 population, and human rights groups have expressed concern about their welfare.
Holly Burkhalter of Americas Watch, a group that monitors human rights in Latin America, said the situation in Suriname is ″scary,″ and that the organization’s main concern was for the Bush Negroes.
″The human rights situation in Suriname deteriorated seriously in mid- 1986, particularly in areas of suspected killings, disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detention,″ the U.S. State Department said in its 1986 Human Rights report, released two months ago.