Kosovo Crisis Update
Wounded staff member in stable condition
Daniel Mora Castro, UNHCR's senior water development officer, is in stable condition in hospital after he was shot and seriously wounded on Monday night by unknown gunmen in Tirana. Mora Castro, 50, was with a colleague in a UNHCR vehicle when the gunmen in a car pulled over and fired, wounding him in the head. He was treated in Tirana and was flown to Geneva on Tuesday, where his condition was described as stable. Cause of the attack was not immediately known. The incident is under investigation.
The flow of refugees into Albania slowed to a trickle Tuesday when 300 people crossed the Morini border.
Among the new arrivals were several employees from the Prizren hospital who were arrested at work and taken straight to the border. In the last three weeks, a number of employees have been taken from the same hospital and thrown out of the country.
There were were 4,885 departures from Kukes to other parts of Albania.
UNHCR kicked off its "information campaign" to try to persuade some of the estimated 90,000 refugees still in Kukes to immediately leave the region for more secure and better facilities in the south.
The first day met with mixed results. UNHCR field staff toured one of the tented camps (Médecins Sans Frontières camp), read out the joint UNHCR-government bulletin and answered specific questions - most of which centered on what conditions were like in the south and where refugees were expected to move.
Field teams will go back into the MSF camp today and ask refugees willing to move to indicate where they want to go. Depending on how many respondents there are, UNHCR would then be able to make transportation arrangements.
Field staff also visited a so-called "tractor park" in Kukes where Kosovars fleeing on tractor-trailers have been living. Around 2,500 people at this tractor park immediately said they would move south and arrangements are being made to move them within the next few days.
Trying to persuade refugees to move is an extremely complex problem. They have their own reasons for not wanting to move - being nearer the border where family may still arrive from Kosovo, being near the border if and when they can go home, and the fear of the "unknown" of other parts of Albania.
Another factor was at work yesterday. Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army have been active in the camps trying to dissuade people from leaving. After UNHCR visited one collective centre yesterday and the bulk of the 700 people agreed to move, KLA representatives followed and by the time UNHCR returned, the refugees had "changed their minds" and now didn't want to go. UNHCR staff are going back to the centre again today to try to persuade them to leave.
FYR of Macedonia
For the sixth straight day, the border area between Kosovo and the FYR of Macedonia at Blace was empty yesterday. A train arrived at the crossing point at Djeneral Jankovic. Seven passengers who had valid Yugoslav travel documents were allowed to enter the FYR of Macedonia and were taken to Stenkovec I camp. They reported that the train had carried only 20 people and that the 13 others had been sent back. Another 60 persons entered FYR of Macedonia at the Tabanovce crossing point. All had valid travel documents.
UNHCR is putting together a plan which will be taken up with the Skopje government to support its policing activities in the refugee camps. Although the situation has been relatively stable so far, the risk of a deterioration of security conditions remains. Overcrowding, the risk of exploitation of refugees by various political groups and corruption are concerns that UNHCR intends to address with the introduction of a camp security liaison team, which will work closely with the Macedonian police.
The plan involves the use of international security officers, seconded from one or more governments, to assist the Macedonian authorities who are increasingly burdened by the high number of refugees they have to secure.
Republic of Montenegro
UNHCR Special Envoy Dennis McNamara visited the Republic of Montenegro this week. During a two-day stop in Rozaje, he met with NGO representatives and looked at camps hosting refugees from Kosovo. He met with government officials in Podgorica before holding a press conference during which he appealed to the international community to support Montenegro in coping with the influx of Kosovars. He also called for assistance to in recognition of its open door policy towards the displaced Kosovars.
Meanwhile, the influx into Montenegro continues. More than 400 people from Kosovo arrived in Montenegro at Rozaje on Monday. The programme to help the displaced also continues. Eleven trucks arrived on Wednesday in Podgorica with UNHCR relief items from Belgrade. UNHCR also received relief items loaded in four trucks from the aid agency Swiss Disaster Relief. UNHCR has purchased cleaning materials which have been delivered to the centres for IDPs in Rozaje and Tuzi.
UNHCR-IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme
A total of 2,054 refugees departed on Tuesday under the humanitarian evacuation programme from the FYR of Macedonia to third countries. This included 424 to Australia, 162 to Austria, 270 to Canada, 160 to Denmark, 168 to Finland, 322 to Italy, 148 to Norway, 154 to Portugal, 99 to Turkey and 147 to the United Kingdom.
Some 40,500 refugees have departed under the programme in which UNHCR has received offers for 135,000 places in 39 countries.