Kosovo Crisis Update
UNHCR is concerned by a number of reports from recently arriving refugees in the FYR of Macedonia and in Montenegro that people remaining in Kosovo are being required to obtain a new registration document from the authorities. This is apparently a document which registers and deregisters a person's official place of residence.
Some refugees have indicated that they fled, rather than present themselves to the authorities to obtain this document.
In addition, testimony has been gathered from some refugees arriving in the FYR of Macedonia who said that passports were being issued by the Serbian authorities to persons wishing to leave, but that upon exiting Kosovo, the refugees were asked to sign declarations that they renounce their citizenship.
With no immediate sign that last week's peace accord will soon open the way home, around 500 refugees voluntarily boarded 19 NATO trucks in the northern Albanian border town of Kukes on Monday to relocate to camps in the south.
However, on Sunday UNHCR cancelled evacuation from Kukes after very few people showed up for the trip organized by UNHCR to put them safely away from the fighting along the frontier between Serbian forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army. There had been optimism among the refugees that the war would end and they would quickly go back to Kosovo, but that hope seemed to have faded Monday with the announcement of a stalemate on the military implementation of the peace plan.
An average of 2,000 people had been joining the caravans leaving Kukes daily for camps in southern and central Albania, before the peace deal was announced last Thursday.
Also on Monday, 96 refugees - all men released in the morning from the Smerkovnica prison outside Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Albania - arrived at the Morini crossing into Kukes.
After they crossed the border, the sound of mortar fire and NATO sorties was heard on the other side of the border.
The arrivals said they had been held for seven days. On Monday morning, they were taken to a local school for final interrogation by police, whose office had been bombed, and then put on buses for the border. They said 300 new prisoners were brought in on Saturday, and they recounted stories of mistreatment other former prisoners previously told.
More than 2,500 prisoners had been freed in the past two weeks from Smerkovnica. New arrivals estimated at 500 the number of men still in the prison.
The evacuation of refugees from Krume, 25 kilometres north of Kukes, continued on Monday. The area, where a significant KLA presence has been reported, had been subjected to Serbian artillery and mortar attacks from the Kosovo side. However, the area was reported quiet over the last two days.
More than 8,000 villagers have fled the Krume area.
FYR of Macedonia
Scores of mortar rounds and rifle-fired grenades from Kosovo struck the border village of Vratnica at Jazince on Monday, prompting residents to flee. It was the first time a Macedonian village has been targetted from Kosovo. Villagers were reported to be returning on Tuesday morning.
A total of 426 refugees arrived into the FYR of Macedonia from Kosovo during the day. 320 came in at at Vratnica, an unofficial border crossing near Jazince. 100 entered at Tabanovce and 6 at Blace.
Arrivals in the last several days said that Serbian forces were continuing a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo despite Belgrade's agreement Thursday to a peace plan for Kosovo. They said that hundreds more people were waiting to cross the Macedonian border.
Except for four women and a few children, all the arrivals at Vratnica were men. They said that many women, children and elderly were still in the hills, but were too weak to trek down. They said the group had been hiding in the mountains for months, surviving on corn. The journey to the Macedonian border took seven days from Berisha near Komarane just north of the Kosovo capital, Pristina. They said they originally came from the Drenica region in central Kosovo.
Republic of Montenegro
Around 250 Kosovars arrived in Montenegro on Saturday and Sunday. Most of the Kosovars who recently fled to Montenegro came from the northern town of Kosovska Mitrovica.
Work on a new camp site, Pine Tree III, at Ulcinj is expected to be completed by the end of the week. It can hold up to 2,400 people. An additional site has also been identified - Pine Tree IV. This will shelter 600 refugees, mostly the sick and the elderly.
Facilities at Ulcinj are being improved to accommodate Kosovars being transferred from the border town of Rozaje, where increased military activity has been reported in recent weeks, prompting UNHCR to relocate the displaced there to Ulcinj.
UNHCR-IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme
A total of 790 refugees in the FYR of Macedonia departed on Monday under the humanitarian evacuation programme of UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration, bringing the overall count to 79,013. Destinations were France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Denmark, Germany and Australia are winding up the selection for their quotas.
Over the weekend, only around 300 people departed under the programme in which UNHCR has received offers for 137,000 places in 40 countries.