• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Kosovo: terrified Serbs fleeing

Briefing Notes, 24 August 1999

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 August 1999, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR today evacuated 28 vulnerable elderly Serbs from Prizren to Serbia where they will be reunited with their families. Virtually all of the 28 have received verbal threats. They were terrified and asked to be taken out.

The latest Federal Yugoslav Government figures indicate that Kosovo is emptying out of its Serbs and only three municipalities in the extreme north of Kosovo have sizeable Serb populations. The Yugoslav government says an estimated 195,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have now arrived in Serbia and Montenegro up from 180,000 just two or three weeks ago. Even though UNHCR cannot vouch for the accuracy of the figure, it certainly implies that Kosovo's Serbian population is dwindling even further.

Meanwhile UNHCR's shelter rehabilitation programme in Kosovo is getting into full swing, with 5,800 basic shelter kits distributed so far. These kits are designed to provide enough material to allow homeowners to temporarily weatherproof one room in their house before winter. The kits contain reinforced, heavy-duty plastic sheeting for roof repairs, as well as translucent plastic to cover broken windows. The kits also include timber, plywood, nails, staples, tape and tools. Since mid-June, UNHCR has delivered more than 750 truckloads of aid to Kosovo, much of it shelter material.

These materials are not meant to provide total reconstruction of a home. They are not meant as a permanent solution, but only as a temporary measure to get people through this first difficult winter. Our distribution partners, however, are reporting that many Kosovars have very high expectations, assuming that UNHCR is going to provide enough material to totally rebuild their homes. We've even heard of some cases where homeowners have turned down shelter kits, fearing they would be ineligible should a more substantial rebuilding package come later.

We want to stress to everyone that these kits may be the only help they receive before the onset of winter and they should make the best possible use of the materials in fixing one warm and weatherproof room. UNHCR is not a reconstruction agency we do emergency relief , assistance and some rehabilitation to ensure that refugee returns are sustainable. Reconstruction and long-term development are done by others.

UNHCR is handling only a third or less of the total provision of shelter kits. We're providing 16,000 basic shelter kits and another 4,400 roofing kits which are being distributed according to several criteria. Other organisations are also supplying shelter, including the European Community Humanitarian Office which is providing 20,000 basic kits, while the US is contributing 19,300. In all, the kits will benefit an estimated 387,000 people. That should be enough for the estimated population living in what we call Category 3 and 4 housing damage ranging from 20 to 60 percent.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Shelter

One of the first things that people need after being forced to flee their homes, whether they be refugees or internally displaced, is some kind of a roof over their head.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

The port city of Aden in southern Yemen has long been a destination for refugees, asylum-seekers and economic migrants after making the dangerous sea crossing from the Horn of Africa. Since May 2011, Aden also has been providing shelter to tens of thousands of Yemenis fleeing fighting between government forces and armed groups in neighbouring Abyan governorate.

Most of the 157,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Abyan have found shelter with friends and relatives, but some 20,000 have been staying in dozens of public schools and eight vacant public buildings. Conditions are crowded with several families living together in a single classroom.

Many IDPs expected their displacement would not be for long. They wish to return home, but cannot do so due to the fighting. Moreover, some are fearful of reprisals if they return to areas where many homes were destroyed or severely damaged in bombings.

UNHCR has provided emergency assistance, including blankets, plastic sheeting and wood stoves, to almost 70,000 IDPs from Abyan. Earlier this year, UNHCR rehabilitated two buildings, providing shelter for 2,000 people and allowing 3,000 children, IDPs and locals, to resume schooling in proper classrooms. UNHCR is advocating with the authorities for the conversion of additional public buildings into transitional shelters for the thousands of IDPs still living in schools.

Photographer Pepe Rubio Larrauri travelled to Aden in March 2012 to document the day-to-day lives of the displaced.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees

A study of the lives of three Europeans who have been living as refugees in Serbia for more than 15 years.

Serbia is the only European country with a protracted refugee population. More than 90,000 refugees from Croatia and from Bosnia and Herzegovina remain there, victims of wars that erupted after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

These long-term refugees live under appalling conditions in dingy apartments and overcrowded collective centres – the nearest thing to refugee camps in modern Europe.

This set of pictures tells the story of three displaced people, the problems they face and their hopes for the future.

Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

UNHCR has expressed its mounting concern about civilians trapped in the Abobo district of Cote d'Ivoire's commercial centre, Abidjan, following days of fierce fighting between forces loyal to rival presidential candidates. The situation there remains grim. Many of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Abobo have fled, but armed groups are reportedly preventing others from leaving. UNHCR is particularly concerned about vulnerable people, such as the sick and the elderly, who may not be able to leave.

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

Lebanon: Fadia's StoryPlay video

Lebanon: Fadia's Story

A former nurse, Fadia found life as a refugee in Lebanon to be especially difficult without employment. She counts herself lucky to be living in a shelter paid for by aid agencies, but food and other necessities are harder to come by. Fadia's is one of 145,000 Syrian families in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq headed by women. Poverty, isolation and fear of exploitation are just some of the hardships they face.
Iraq: Mosul ExodusPlay video

Iraq: Mosul Exodus

A shortage of shelter is emerging as a key challenge as UNHCR and others race to help people fleeing the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and heading to checkpoints between Ninewa province and Iraq's Kurdistan region. Many are arriving with little more than the clothes on their back.
Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee InfluxPlay video

Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee Influx

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in early May, fighting continues between government and opposition forces in South Sudan. The renewed conflict has forced thousands of refugees to seek shelter in Ethiopia.