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Kosovo Crisis Update

Kosovo Crisis Update

17 April 1999


Refugees continued to flow through the Morini border throughout the day and night of 16 April. Over 600 refugees per hour were reported to be arriving and by 8 a.m. Saturday, some 14,000 refugees had crossed into northern Albania in the space of 24 hours. The new arrivals came mainly from the towns of Mitrovica and Prizren. The majority arrived in vehicles. A heavy rain began to fall on the slow-moving lines of refugees at 11 p.m. and continued through the night.

Transit centres in the Kukes area are being expanded to accommodate the new influx. Already, two sites established Friday - a tented camp for 4,000 people and a municipal building with a capacity for 2,000 - have been filled by the new arrivals.

Wagons covered with plastic sheeting are providing temporary shelter for several thousand refugees until they can be moved south, away from the border. Movements south remain limited to 5,000 daily, and the capacity to provide shelter and relief for the 100,000 refugees crowding into the Kukes area has been stretched to its limits. Poor roads limit overland deliveries, but on average 20 metric tons of relief supplies have been delivered daily since 10 April in a UNHCR helicopter airlift to northern Albania. The relief supplies include canned meat, wheat flour, clothes, baby food, milk and milk powder, water containers, blankets, emergency rations and high protein biscuits. A Swiss airlift operation has brought over 9 metric tons of relief supplies to Kukes and Krume and US helicopters have delivered emergency rations to Krume, Bajram Curri and Kukes during the past week.

FYR of Macedonia

On Friday, some 7,800 refugees arrived in Macedonia. Around half of them arrived by train in Blace in the early afternoon of 16 April. Many others arrived on buses. The train passengers included refugees who had reportedly been on the train which was turned back from the same border crossing on 15 April. The train originated from Urosevac and picked up passengers along the line. A fleet of buses ferried the new arrivals to the camp at Stenkovec.

The new arrivals have stretched the capacity of existing accommodation. The government has not agreed to allow the establishment of any new sites for refugee camps, although it has agreed to permit the expansion of existing sites. The planned expansion should enable the existing sites to house 86,000 refugees, up from the current already overstretched capacity of 45,000. An estimated 77,000 refugees are also staying with host families throughout Macedonia.

Republic of Montenegro

On average, 1,500 to 2,000 refugees have arrived daily in Montenegro since the beginning of the emergency, but recently daily totals have been higher. The Montenegrin government reports that around 15,000 of the Kosovars who have arrived in Montenegro since 24 March have moved to Albania, via the border crossing at Bozaj (Hani i Hoti).

A UNHCR relief convoy of three double-trailer trucks arrived in Podgorica from Belgrade during the night of 15 to 16 April, carrying 90 tents, 675 baby parcels, 50 cartons of clothing, 4,000 mattresses, 20,000 blankets, 1,000 cooking sets and 2,000 jerry cans. The relief stocks, which came from UNHCR's Belgrade warehouse, were immediately deployed to Tuzi, Rozaje and Ulcinj. UNHCR is purchasing food locally for distribution to centres housing the displaced people. A total of 81 tents were erected by MSF to accommodate 1,680 persons in the Rozaje area. A nightly meeting is held in Rozaje to coordinate activities of the agencies present there.

UNHCR-IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme

From the start of the humanitarian evacuation programme through 16 April, nearly 15,000 refugees have left Macedonia by air, for nine different countries (including some under bilateral arrangements). On Friday, 717 refugees left Macedonia by air bound for Germany, Turkey, and Norway. Another 300 are to be evacuated today to Germany. On Sunday, a first flight to France is scheduled to carry around 300 refugees, who will be hosted in the Lyon area. The first two flights for Belgium, carrying around 400 persons, are planned for Sunday. Flights to Turkey have been suspended during the election weekend and are due to resume on 20 April.

The UNHCR Office in Turkey is starting work to identify Kosovar refugees who are in need of help to trace family members and to reunite these split families. Priority will be given to minors separated from their parents, separated spouses, elderly persons separated from supporting relatives, the disabled and severely traumatized.