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FYR of Macedonia: another massive wave of Kosovars

Briefing notes

FYR of Macedonia: another massive wave of Kosovars

25 May 1999

Since last Friday, well over 20,000 Kosovar refugees have poured into Macedonia putting a new strain on the country's reception capacity and signalling another massive wave of ethnic cleansing. On Monday alone three trains and 20 buses brought 8,000 people to Blace while several hundred more used other border crossings. Those arriving over the past few days included persons from Pristina and Urosevac areas as well as displaced people who had moved to those cities over the past year from all over the province.

During the same period, just over 5,000 refugees left the FYR of Macedonia for evacuation to third countries, creating considerable anxiety on the part of the Skopje authorities that the camps would again be full to overflowing. The authorities are insisting on transfer of at least some refugees to camps in Albania.

UNHCR understands the difficult situation Macedonia is in as well as the top-priority need to keep Macedonia's border with Serbia open to refugees. At the same time UNHCR believes transfer of Kosvo refugees to Albania, while not excluded should be voluntary and based on an informed decision by the refugees themselves.