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.