Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: concern about the plight of civilians caught in fighting
UNHCR is increasingly concerned about the plight of civilians caught in fighting between Macedonian armed forces and ethnic Albanian rebels. Between 5,000 and 10,000 people are believed to be trapped in villages engulfed by fighting in northern Macedonia. Thousand more have sought refuge in the Kumanovo town area, deeper inside Macedonia. An estimated 700 to 1,000 people a day are fleeing to Kumanovo from the villages of Lojane, Vaksince and Lipkovo located between Kumanovo and the Serbian border. The area has borne the brunt of fighting over the past few days. An estimated 18,000 people have sought refuge in southern Serbia and Kosovo. UNHCR has repeatedly urged restraint and called for a cessation of hostilities to avert a new humanitarian crisis in the Balkans. We are particularly concerned about the fate of civilians - as always the primary victims. We have urged all sides in the conflict to show respect for civilians and their freedom of movement. They should neither be forced to leave their homes nor remain in them against their will.