Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: thousands on the move

Briefing Notes, 20 March 2001

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 20 March 2001, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Several thousand people are on the move in and around the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia following clashes between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian separatists. Over the past six days, more than 2,300 ethnic Albanians have crossed the border from FYR Macedonia to Albania a tenfold increase from the usual number of crossings, according to Albanian authorities. Nearly half of them merely transited Albanian territory and entered Kosovo. They appear to be leaving Macedonia as a precautionary measure. So far, none of them has asked for aid, as they seem to rely on a network of extended family and friends. At the same time, UNHCR estimates some 1,400 people, predominantly ethnic Albanians but also Macedonian Slavs, have crossed from Macedonia to southern Serbia in buses and private vehicles. Most say they do not intend to stay in Serbia, but instead are headed for Bosnia and Croatia. There has also been a movement of people within Macedonia. The International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent has registered a total of 3,700 people internally displaced within Macedonia. Most were registered in Macedonia's capital, Skopje. UNHCR continues to be extremely concerned about the situation.