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Kosovo: situation of minority groups becoming critical

Briefing notes

Kosovo: situation of minority groups becoming critical

9 July 1999

The situation of minority groups remaining in Kosovo (Serbs and Roma in particular) is becoming critical. UNHCR staff report houses of Serbs burning at night (for instance, 21 houses in Prizren in the past 48 hours). In particular in the Djakovica (Djakova) area, very tense situations exist. Around 360 Roma left their houses in the Brekovac (Brekoc) area and gathered around the (mined) graveyard close to the centre of town. Houses were burnt (at least 14) and some Roma taken away by KLA for interrogation. The group is asking to be evacuated to Montenegro.

In Prizren, there are still 130 Serbs in the Orthodox seminary at Bogoslavija, under German KFOR protection. Other Serbs from Prizren have moved to villages in the Strpce area, a Serb enclave on the road to Orasevac. Up to 10,000 Serbs are reportedly in this area.

The Serb community in Orahovac is also asking to be taken out of the area. Most of the Serbs have moved from surrounding villages to the upper part of the town where they live in a ghetto-like area under Dutch KFOR protection. Thirty to forty elderly Serb women are staying in the Orthodox church there and are very frightened.

Meanwhile the situation of some 100,000 Serbs who have fled from Kosovo to Serbia proper is grim. Deprived of any official status they have become second class citizens Local press reports in Serbia say the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia sent an instruction to all directors of the primary and secondary schools in the territory of Serbia to reject enrolment of pupils from Kosovo.

Various other bureaucratic pressures are reportedly being applied on the internally displaced to return to Kosovo.

The distribution of fuel in Serbia is limited to 20 litres per month. The fuel is available only with "coupons" distributed through local police stations in the municipalities where the car owners have residence. The Kosovo IDPs cannot claim monthly fuel rations outside Kosovo.

Pensioners cannot receive their pensions outside the place of residence unless they are registered with the local police at the new place of residence. IDPs cannot register with the local police in the new place of residence unless they de-register from their previous place of residence. De-registration, however, is not possible in Kosovo after the withdrawal of police forces.

The Serbian Health Ministry on Friday 2 July had urged all health workers from Kosovo to report to their jobs in Kosovo by last Sunday noon or else lose their jobs and their back pay.

UNHCR and IOM will meet Monday in Geneva with representatives of the 29 governments which hosted refugees under the Humanitarian Evacuation Programme and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to co-ordinate arrangements for voluntary returns.