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Kosovo: UNHCR's Mitrovica fears

Briefing notes

Kosovo: UNHCR's Mitrovica fears

11 February 2000

Recent ethnic violence in northern Kosovo's divided city of Mitrovica has led to an exodus of ethnic Albanians from the city's Serb-populated northern half, deepening the division of the city along ethnic lines. More than 630 Albanians have formally registered with UNHCR since violence erupted in the city last week. But UNHCR believes the actual number of those who have fled is much higher, as most people leave quietly to join friends and family in other parts of Kosovo, without bothering to register with the UN. UNHCR staff on the ground say property vacated by fleeing Albanians is often looted and sometimes occupied by ethnic Serbs. A mere 4,500 ethnic Albanians remained in the northern districts of Mitrovica before the outbreak of violence last week. UNHCR fears that if the exodus continues northern Mitrovica will soon be emptied of its ethnic Albanian population. UNHCR estimates that half of the ethnic Albanian population of central Mitrovica have already left.

The string of violent incidents in Mitrovica last week had been sparked by a rocket-propelled grenade attack February 2 on a UNHCR bus carrying Kosovo Serbs. Two Serbs died in the attack and three others were injured. 7 Albanians were killed in subsequent violent retaliatory attacks in the Serb controlled north of Mitrovica.