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Kosovo: UNHCR expects pace of returns to slow

Briefing notes

Kosovo: UNHCR expects pace of returns to slow

29 June 1999

The number of Kosovar refugees who returned spontaneously from neighbouring countries on Monday, June 28 was 29,300, a decrease of 15% compared with Sunday's figure, and of 30% compared with Saturday's.

UNHCR had anticipated that the pace of spontaneous returns will start to slow, as most of those refugees who have the means to arrange their own transport, and a place to go to, have returned. The need for organized and assisted repatriation will grow. The population of refugees and displaced people in Albania, the FYR of Macedonia and Montenegro has fallen to around 312,000, which is well under half of the number (782,000) staying in these countries in the beginning of June when the peace arrangement for Kosovo was concluded.

This morning UNHCR is organizing a second repatriation movement from camps in the FYR of Macedonia. Around 320 refugees are scheduled to return by bus to Pristina and Urosevac. Organized repatriation from Albania will begin on Thursday. In the meantime, refugees are being moved to a transit facility in Kukes from camps in the south of Albania.

UNHCR staff in northern Kosovo, especially in the Pec area, report that shelter for returnees continues to be the biggest problem. UNHCR's shelter expert estimates that up to 45,000 of homes in Kosovo are so severely damaged as to be uninhabitable. Since the UNHCR office opened in Pec just a few days ago, staff have distributed 700 family-sized tents to returnees and are now distributing the 500 additional tents which arrived in Pec yesterday. 16,000 additional tents are on order and expected soon. Meanwhile tents from the camps in Macedonia are being refurbished, disinfected and packed by Swiss Disaster Relief for shipment to Kosovo.

Material for UNHCR shelter repair kits has started to arrive in Kosovo and distribution will begin as soon as the kits are assembled.