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FYR of Macedonia: returns from Kosovo rise sharply

Briefing notes

FYR of Macedonia: returns from Kosovo rise sharply

31 July 2001

The number of ethnic Albanians returning from Kosovo to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has risen sharply over the past few days as more and more Albanians decide to return to the now open Aracinovo village outside of Skopje. The village, which saw some of the heaviest fighting to date, had been virtually deserted by its overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population and subsequently sealed off by the FYROM authorities. The return movement to the village began last Sunday as the authorities re-opened the area for return. More than 200 people are believed to be staying overnight in the village since. Several thousand are seen cleaning up their homes during the day. Meanwhile, ethnic Macedonians continue to make brief go-and-see visits to villages in the Tetovo area from which they had been driven last week. UNHCR last weekend accompanied several hundred people to villages in the Tetovo area to enable them to see their homes. Most of those going back however are too nervous to stay in their homes. UNHCR deems it absolutely crucial that civilians displaced by the FYROM conflict be allowed to return as soon as possible to avoid an even deeper division between FYROM's ethnic communities.