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Kosovo Crisis Update

Kosovo Crisis Update

18 May 1999


Nineteen Kosovars crossed the Morini border into Albania on Monday. The rate of arrivals has remained low since late last week amid reports of NATO action along the border areas.

Meanwhile, UNHCR, interested NGOs and NATO continue to work together on a programme to persuade the inhabitants of the tented camps in Kukes (around 30,000 refugees) to move south.

The World Bank oganised a meeting in Tirana on Monday with major donors and agencies to discuss education for refugee children.

FYR of Macedonia

A train arrived at the border on Tuesday and hundreds of Kosovo refugees were allowed to disembark and proceed to the no man's land between Serbia and the FYR of Macedonia. First reports indicated that the train's passengers numbered as many as 1,000.

This was in contrast to events on Monday, when Serbian border authorities apparently turned back a train packed with about 1,000 Kosovars attempting to cross the border into the FYR of Macedonia. Only 10 old men who used to work in the FYR of Macedonia were allowed to disembark to collect their monthly pension.

The men said the train, which originated from Kosovo Polje just outside Pristina, had picked up passengers on its stops along the route. The train's five wagons were crowded and a lot more people trying to get on board had been left behind, the men said. One hour after it arrived at the border town of Djeneral Jankovic, the train was sent back, with its passengers still on board.

One of the men who arrived told UNHCR that there were around 50,000 people waiting to leave the Vitina area. He reported that the military were using civilians for protection. Tanks, heavy artillery and anti-aircraft guns were reported hidden in civilian houses and barns. During NATO air strikes, he said, Yugoslav troops move as close as they can to populated areas, where they can seek protection. The report could not be independently verified.

Meanwhile, 235 refugees entered the FYR of Macedonia on Monday. They included 85 who came in through the unofficial crossings at Straza and Lojane and 150 through the immigration control at Tabanovce. All the refugees were sent to Senokos camp.

Republic of Montenegro

Serbian authorities on Monday released in Tutin, Serbia, the 106 men who were detained while attempting to cross the border into Albania on Saturday.

UNHCR is arranging transport for 45 of these men, who wanted to go to Ulcinj; the rest will remain in the meantime in the Rozaje area with their families.

Details of the arrests, which followed the army's reported move on Saturday to take control of the border area with Albania, and of the subsequent release of the men, were not immediately available.

UNHCR-IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme

The number of refugees evacuated from the FYR of Macedonia has now exceeded 50,000. To date, 27 countries have received Kosovar refugees under the programme.

A total of 1,168 refugees left on Monday, bringing the cumulative total to 51,399. Monday's departures were to Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

Members of the UNHCR medical evacuation unit visited the Struga Dialysis Centre on Monday to assess the need for medical evacuation or other support for refugee patiens. Fourteen patients have already been evacuated over the last three weeks to the Netherlands and Belgium.

So far, 51,399 refugees have departed under the humanitarian evacuation programme in which UNHCR has received offers for 135,000 places in 39 countries.