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Kosovo: UNHCR welcomes Kosovar Albanian signing of Interim Peace Agreement

Briefing notes

Kosovo: UNHCR welcomes Kosovar Albanian signing of Interim Peace Agreement

19 March 1999

UNHCR welcomes the signing of the proposed Interim Peace Agreement for Kosovo by the Kosovo Albanian delegation, which took place yesterday evening (March 18) in Paris. But in the absence of agreement from both sides, the spiral of violence, fear and displacement goes on.

UNHCR staff on the ground say civilians left their homes by the thousands this week as the Yugoslav army brought new troops into the province and shelled villages in various areas (Vucitrn, Prizren, Srbica).

We estimate that about 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting since the October cease-fire unravelled in late December. Of this number, around 60,000 people have been driven from their homes since the end of the first round of talks at Rambouillet in late February alone.

Because of the shifting nature of the displacement and the ongoing cycle of flight, return and renewed flight, it is difficult to give precise figures for the homeless. But we estimate the number of those displaced within Kosovo now at 240,000.

Kosovo Albanians also continue to arrive in other European countries and to ask for asylum. During 1998, UNHCR recorded 98,400 asylum applications in 25 European countries lodged by citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, almost all of whom were Kosovars. In January and February of this year, another 14,500 applications were filed in the 17 countries for which figures are currently available.

We estimate that overall 22% of Kosovo's pre-conflict population has been displaced - 443,000 people.

This overall figure includes persons displaced within Kosovo itself (240,000), as well as to other countries and areas in the region (Montenegro: 25,000; other parts of Serbia: 30,000; the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: 9,800; Bosnia and Herzegovina: 10,000; Albania: 18,500; other European countries: 100,000.)