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Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Briefing Notes, 16 November 2001

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 16 November 2001, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR welcomes the long-awaited adoption of constitutional amendments yesterday in FYROM. This was a major achievement towards stability and peace in FYROM and a concrete step toward the implementation of the August peace agreement. Now that FYROM has incorporated minority rights in its national legislation we would like to see this implemented on the ground.

A major remaining issue is the actual implementation of amnesty. UNHCR believes that the effective implementation of an amnesty is key in normalizing further the situation in FYROM. The amnesty should not only apply to the former Albanian rebels but also to draft evaders and deserters of all communities who had refused to take up arms during the six-month internal conflict. A generous amnesty will make for the smooth introduction of a multi-ethnic police force into the former conflict areas and will help reduce fear among people of all communities.

UNHCR continues to assist the returnees and villages in conflict-affected areas in a bid to help build confidence between communities. Every day, UNHCR is delivering 20 truckloads of shelter material to help families repair their homes. More than 7,000 return kits have been delivered to benefit over 30,000 returnees. Seventeen quick impact projects designed to repair schools and community buildings are underway and up to 26,000 cubic-metres of firewood is also being delivered to schools, clinics and vulnerable families.

The conflict in FYROM displaced more than 100,000 refugees and up to 70,000 internally displaced people at its height. Over 62,000 refugees have now returned from Kosovo and an estimated 20,000 internally displaced people have returned to their homes. Some 16,000 refugees remain in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, mainly in Kosovo.



The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Refugees Onward JourneyPlay video

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Refugees Onward Journey

A transit centre at Vinojug, on FYR Macedonia's border with Greece is where the refugees and migrants pass through on their journey further into Europe. Here UNHCR and partner organisations provide food, water, medical care, psycho-social support and information for refugees who take the train towards the border with Serbia. UNHCR also provides information on how to access the asylum system in the country. In recent weeks, an average of 6,300 refugees pass through the camp every day, yesterday that number grew to 10,000, a record.
FYR Macedonia: Volunteers At HandPlay video

FYR Macedonia: Volunteers At Hand

Almost 300,000 refugees and migrants have passed through the Gevgelija transit center in the former Yusgoslav Republic of Macedonia, on their way to the EU since it was setup less than two months ago.
Serbia: Overstretched BordersPlay video

Serbia: Overstretched Borders

As Hungary builds a fence on its border with Serbia, the situation at the border between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece is increasingly precarious. Refugees in Serbia on their way to Hungry fear the tighter measures and say they wouldn't have fled home had they not been forced to do it by the war.