Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Roma agree to remain

Briefing Notes, 12 August 2003

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 12 August 2003, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Hundreds of Kosovo Roma, who had been camping near the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM's) border with Greece for nearly three months, in an unsuccessful bid to enter the European Union, have now agreed to remain in FYROM. They were moved over the weekend to collective centres and private accommodation in FYROM's capital, Skopje, and the city of Kumanovo. After months of talks involving representatives of the refugees themselves, the FYROM government, European Union officials, local NGOs and UNHCR the group of 668 agreed to leave the border village of Medzitlija where they had been camping since May 19. Out of the group, 122 persons have now been accommodated in the Katlanovo collective centre, 254 in private accommodation in Skopje region while 292 have been taken to a temporary transit shelter in Kumanovo, pending their relocation to more permanent accommodation. UNHCR welcomes the hospitality of the municipalities that are hosting the refugees.

Thousands of Kosovo Roma's fled to FYROM in the Summer of 1999 as Serbian forces pulled out of the province, fearing revenge attacks by Kosovo Albanians who accused the of siding with the Serbs. Some have since gone back to Kosovo or moved to Serbia proper but more than 2,500 remain in FYROM.