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FYR of Macedonia: still much tension and insecurity

Briefing notes

FYR of Macedonia: still much tension and insecurity

24 August 2001

A UNHCR mobile team, which travelled to the town of Tetovo on Thursday for the first time in weeks, reported that the town was calm and that there was normal commercial activity. But conversations with representatives of the ethnic Albanian and the ethnic Macedonian communities showed that there is still a great deal of tension and insecurity following weeks of hostilities in the immediate vicinity of Tetovo. While the situation in Tetovo town appeared almost normal, local residents said surrounding villages were clearly divided along ethnic lines. Aid workers were prevented from travelling to the villages by land mines and other security risks.

Meanwhile, returns of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo to FYROM have come to a standstill as the main road from Kosovo to FYROM continues to be blocked by a group of ethnic Macedonians trying to prevent ethnic Albanians from going home. An estimated 30,000 ethnic Albanians had returned to FYROM before the blockade was erected last Saturday. More than 100,000 people remain uprooted by the conflict. Today (Friday), a shelter damage assessment team composed of UNHCR, FYROM officials and other agencies had to pull out temporarily from the village of Aracinovo, outside of Skopje, after a child threw a hand grenade he had found. No one was hurt in the explosion, but the incident illustrates the danger unexploded ordnance poses to those trying to go back to their homes.