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FYR of Macedonia: thousands leaving for Kosovo

Briefing notes

FYR of Macedonia: thousands leaving for Kosovo

8 May 2001

An estimated 6,600 people have arrived in Kosovo from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia since May 3rd, amid new clashes between ethnic Albanian militants and Macedonian security forces. Most of the people said they were leaving as a precautionary measure. An estimated 3,000 people crossed the border on Monday alone, using both the official border crossings and small mountain roads according to local and international monitors in Kosovo. They said they feared that an escalation of violence could put them in jeopardy. The overwhelming majority of those who have crossed the border into Kosovo are women, children and elderly men who said they came from villages around the town of Kumanovo. Those arriving from the Tetovo area spoke of a build-up of Macedonian security forces.

UNHCR is gravely concerned about the new wave of violence in Macedonia sparked by rebel attacks against Macedonian security forces. We are urging that every effort be made to avoid a further escalation. Once violence gets out of hand and people are driven from their homes, it is extraordinarily difficult to create conditions for their safe return.