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Kosovo Crisis Update

Kosovo Crisis Update

3 May 1999


More than 3,100 refugees crossed into Albania's Kukes district through the Morini border yesterday. Many who crossed during the day were internally displaced, who had been living in the town of Prizren for the past several weeks. Many of the new arrivals said that Serbian military forces were going from street to street and house to house telling people they had to leave. However, they reported that a group of around 400 long-term residents of Prizren had been told to go back by Serbian authorities, who reportedly wanted to use them as human shields in the event of a NATO attack. The group included men, women and children. Smaller groups from Djakovica and Suva Reka in western Kosovo crossed into Kukes in trailers during the afternoon and late evening.

An estimated 6,700 refugees left Kukes on Sunday for other areas of Albania in a continuing effort to decongest the region. It was one of the largest departures from that area. Many left in a fleet of 362 private vehicles. NATO trucks assisted in the departures, taking out some 1,000 refugees to the railway station for points south. The trucks came from the Italian, Dutch and Belgian contingents. The Albanian army also helped in moving the refugees out of Kukes. Kukes still hosts some 100,000 of the 395,600 refugees in Albania.

The search for new accommodations to house the constant flow of arrivals continues in Albania. Aid agencies have identified a number of new sites, including a 31-hectare area at Delvina in southern Albania. Other sites being considered are Gjirokaster, Korce and Elbasan in southern Albania.

FYR of Macedonia

About 3,900 Kosovars arrived in the FYR of Macedonia yesterday - 3,600 at Blace and 270 at Jazince. Most of the new arrivals were taken to Cegrane, a newly established camp south of Tetovo. The rest remained at the Blace transit centre. Facilities are still being set up at Cegrane, which will eventually house up to 20,000 refugees.

About 1,200 arrivals who had been in a mountainous area near the border village of Straza came down on Saturday and went to either host families or nearby camps.

Overcrowding remains a major problem in camps in the FYR of Macedonia. Unless new sites are built or existing facilities are expanded, UNHCR will have to agree to an offer by Albania to accept additional refugees from the FYR of Macedonia.

Republic of Montenegro

About 300 Kosovars in Montenegro moved to Albania yesterday. Tensions continue in Ulcinj. The issue of IDPs no longer able to pay their rent is one cause of tensions, prompting some refugees to move to camps. From 5 April to 1 May, an estimated 7,000 Kosovars left Ulcinj for Albania and other destinations.

UNHCR-IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme

Departures under the Humanitarian Evacuation Programme from the FYR of Macedonia to third countries continued to decrease yesterday, with only 397 refugees evacuated in three flights to France (133), the Netherlands (149) and Slovenia (115). Five flights are planned today to the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Turkey.