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FYR of Macedonia: groups still fleeing Tetovo

Briefing notes

FYR of Macedonia: groups still fleeing Tetovo

21 August 2001

A week after a peace agreement was signed in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), small groups of ethnic Macedonians continue to flee the troubled town of Tetovo, where intermittent mortar exchanges have been reported since the weekend.

Displaced ethnic Macedonians at a collective centre in Kumanovo said they were willing to return to their homes if their security could be guaranteed. They told UNHCR they were worried about reports that ethnic Albanian rebels were looting and burning ethnic Macedonian and Serb homes in the villages they left behind. The displaced ethnic Macedonians were also concerned about the education of their children, with schools opening in two weeks.

In the FYROM capital, Skopje, several hundred displaced barricaded a road leading to the border crossing at Blace, preventing returns of refugees from Kosovo. More than 27,000 refugees have gone back, but over the past three days there have been no returns from Blace.

Meanwhile, life is increasingly returning to normal at Aracinovo, a largely Albanian village just outside Skopje, where up to 8,000 residents have returned since they fled heavy fighting in June. Many houses have been repaired with UNHCR plastic sheeting, children were out playing in the streets and some shops have reopened. However, only several Macedonians have gone back to Aracinovo. They told UNHCR that resumption of electrical service could encourage more returns to the area. UNHCR has been sending mobile teams to Aracinovo in an attempt to boost confidence. UNHCR has stressed the need to address the security concerns of the displaced, particularly the Macedonians who fled areas where they were in a minority. Creating conditions for their safe return is critical in the successful implementation of the peace agreement.