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Largest Refugee Camp in Former Yugoslavia Closes Down

August 1, 1996

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ The largest refugee camp in former Yugoslavia closed Thursday after the last of its 22,000 residents returned home or moved to other facilities.

The Kupljensko camp in northern Croatia was set up in August 1995 to shelter supporters of rebel Muslim leader Fikret Abdic, who fled Bosnia after they were defeated by Bosnian government forces.

Just across from the Bosnian border and miles from the nearest town, refugees lived in makeshift tents on a 3-mile stretch of road, without running water, electricity or gas.

The Croatian government set a July 31 deadline for the camp to be closed.

``The conditions were horrific,″ said Alemka Lisinski, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. ``International experts agreed that on the given location, little could be done to improve them.″

The U.N. refugee agency other aid organizations provided the refugees with food and medical assistance, as well as mattresses and clothes, Lisinski said.

More than 12,000 refugees voluntarily returned home. Another 6,000 were relocated to other refugee camps within Croatia, while about 2,000 were reunited with their families in third countries.

In order to meet the deadline, a group of 2,000 people who remained in Kupljensko recently agreed to be transferred to a camp in eastern Croatia.

Lisinski said the U.N. refugee agency was satisfied the refugees were able to decide their own fate.

``Nobody was forced to return,″ she said.

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