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Albania and FYR of Macedonia: thousands of new refugees pouring in

Briefing notes

Albania and FYR of Macedonia: thousands of new refugees pouring in

30 April 1999

Thousands of new refugees from Kosovo keep pouring into Albania and FYR of Macedonia, telling more stories of atrocities and further straining the reception capacity of the FRY of Macedonia's hopelessly overcrowded camps.

By late afternoon Thursday an estimated 1,800 people had crossed the Albanian border at Morini. The majority came by car and truck and about one third on foot.

Most were from Prizren - either permanent residents of Prizren or people previously displaced from other areas. They had two distinct stories to tell. Many of the displaced said authorities had gone from street to street, house to house, telling people to leave. They were searching for men - but most men had already left or were in hiding. Others, who were Prizren's permanent residents, said they left without prompting by the authorities because conditions were continuing to deteriorate.

One doctor and six nurses - all Albanian - said they were at work Thursday morning at Prizren hospital when police arrested them, bundled them into a vehicle and drove them to near the border. They did not have time to tell their families they were being forced into exile or pack anything. It took one hour from the time they were working normally until they became refugees in a neighbouring country.

A woman and three children from a village near Meja said, all the men in her village were separated three nights ago. She came through Meja where she said she saw around 15 bodies in the streets of the town - another eyewitness confirmation of the earlier account of an alleged atrocity in that village.

Trying to piece together arrivals and reports in the last few days, there now seems to be a clear pattern emerging in Prizren i.e. that the authorities there appear to be on their final push to cleanse the town of the remaining ethnic Albanians.

Another large group among those arriving in Albania Thursday were from Obilic near Pristina. They said they had been rounded up yesterday by bus and ordered to Albania. UNHCR understands people from this same area have also been arriving in the FRY of Macedonia. They said the entire area was now deserted of people.

Well over 7,000 people arrived in the FRY of Macedonia Thursday. Buses ferried the refugees all night to the new unfinished Cegrane camp which already holds almost 8,000 people. Some spent the night in the open. New tents are hastily being put up.