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Kosovo: 170,000+ return in 9 days

Briefing notes

Kosovo: 170,000+ return in 9 days

22 June 1999

More than 170,000 refugees have poured into Kosovo from Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro since the first KFOR German troops entered Prizren 9 days ago. From Albania over 109,000 persons have returned; from the FYR of Macedonia around 60,000. Yesterday a first group of 800 Kosovars returned from Montenegro, some to remain and some to check on the state of their property.

33,000 people entered Kosovo on Monday alone and the stream shows no sign of abating.

UNHCR staff in Kukes (northern Albania) reported this morning that the camps there, which just a week ago had housed 35,000 refugees, are practically empty, with just a few hundred people remaining.

UNHCR and other aid agencies are rapidly expanding their presence in Kosovo to keep up with what is the Balkans' fastest spontaneous refugee return movement during the 1990s wars.

Two convoys are going to Podujevo today: one from Pristina with nonfood items, tents, plastic, hygiene kits and a convoy of tents directly from Skopje (FYR of Macedonia) to Pec. UNHCR now has 51 international staff on the ground and more arrive every day.

UNHCR went to Bogoslavija Monastery in Prizren yesterday where about 50 people are holed up, mainly elderly Kosovo Serbs and Krajina Serbs, as well as some Kosovo Albanian suspected "collaborators" and a few others. Some had visible physical injuries - black eyes, bruises. They were detained by the KLA in Prizren jail and subsequently released by KFOR and brought to monastery.

UNHCR is pleased by the announcement yesterday by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the High Commissioner's Special Envoy, Mr. Dennis McNamara, will also serve as the Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative in Kosovo for Refugee Return and Humanitarian Assistance.