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UNHCR welcomes more NATO troops in Kosovo, prepares for possible arrivals in Serbia

News Stories, 19 March 2004

© UNHCR/R.Chalasani
Some minority members in Pristina have been evacuated by NATO-led troops.

BELGRADE, Serbia and Montenegro, March 19 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency in Serbia is standing by to receive people fleeing the recent violence in Kosovo, in addition to the more than 1,000 who have already been evacuated by NATO troops.

No significant spontaneous movements have been reported so far, with few people arriving in Serbia on their own since ethnic clashes broke out in Kosovo on Wednesday.

In the last two days, the NATO-led Kosovo Force has evacuated at least 1,000 minority members mostly ethnic Serbs from the Gjilan/Gnjilane, Pristina and Pec/Peja areas of Kosovo. Many of the evacuated houses were subsequently burnt down by angry crowds.

UNHCR is trying to send aid to some of the evacuees, working with the UN Kosovo Mission, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). But aid delivery has been hard as all movements in Kosovo have been halted because of the insecurity.

Since erupting in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica on Wednesday, the clashes have spread to Serbia proper, with angry crowds torching churches in Kosovo and mosques in Serbia. UN buildings and vehicles have also been stoned.

UNHCR, which on Thursday denounced the violence and called for calm, has welcomed the deployment of additional NATO troops in Kosovo. The refugee agency hopes this will put an end to the violence threatens to undo years of international efforts to reconcile the country's ethnic communities.

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Refugee Women

Women and girls make up about 50 percent of the world's refugee population, and they are clearly the most vulnerable. At the same time, it is the women who carry out the crucial tasks in refugee camps – caring for their children, participating in self-development projects, and keeping their uprooted families together.

To honour them and to draw attention to their plight, the High Commissioner for Refugees decided to dedicate World Refugee Day on June 20, 2002, to women refugees.

The photographs in this gallery show some of the many roles uprooted women play around the world. They vividly portray a wide range of emotions, from the determination of Macedonian mothers taking their children home from Kosovo and the hope of Sierra Leonean girls in a Guinean camp, to the tears of joy from two reunited sisters. Most importantly, they bring to life the tremendous human dignity and courage of women refugees even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Refugee Women

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

France is one of the main destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe, with some 55,000 new asylum applications in 2012. As a result of the growing number of applicants, many French cities are facing an acute shortage of accommodation for asylum-seekers.

The government is trying to address the problem and, in February 2013, announced the creation of 4,000 additional places in state-run reception centres for asylum-seekers. But many asylum-seekers are still forced to sleep rough or to occupy empty buildings. One such building, dubbed the "Refugee Hotel" by its transient population, lies on the outskirts of the eastern city of Dijon. It illustrates the critical accommodation situation.

The former meat-packing plant is home to about 100 asylum-seekers, mostly from Chad, Mali and Somalia, but also from Georgia, Kosovo and other Eastern European countries. Most are single men, but there are also two families.

In this dank, rat-infested empty building, the pipes leak and the electricity supply is sporadic. There is only one lavatory, two taps with running water, no bathing facilities and no kitchen. The asylum-seekers sleep in the former cold-storage rooms. The authorities have tried to close the squat several times. These images, taken by British photographer Jason Tanner, show the desperate state of the building and depict the people who call it home.

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003