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FYR of Macedonia: half of Aracinovo residents have returned

Briefing notes

FYR of Macedonia: half of Aracinovo residents have returned

3 August 2001

More than half of the 10,000 residents who fled fighting at Aracinovo, a largely ethnic Albanian village just outside the capital of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), have returned since Sunday. Of the 5,000 who have gone back to the village, about 2,500 are staying overnight, while the rest are cleaning their houses during the day. Few of the estimated 250 ethnic Macedonians families residing in the village have indicated willingness to return. They only go back to pick up their belongings.

Aracinovo was heavily devastated in June during intense fighting between Macedonian forces and ethnic Albanian rebels. Since clashes broke out in FYROM in February, more than 120,000 people have been displaced - including more than 76,000 who went to Kosovo. Around 19,000 refugees have returned, mainly to Skopje.

On Thursday, UNHCR dispatched two trucks carrying supplies, including 130 mattresses, 100 jerry cans, 100 kitchen sets, 100 hygiene parcels and 1050 plastic sheeting, for 100 families. This marks the start of UNHCR's assistance to returnee communities in Macedonia.

UNHCR is helping civilians returning voluntarily to areas where safety is relatively assured. UNHCR's special envoy in the region, Eric Morris, has called on donors to help repair and rebuild destroyed houses. The refugee agency is also leading the UN coordinated efforts to help authorities restore electricity and other utilities in Aracinovo. In addition to material assistance, UNHCR field teams have been present daily in Aracinovo to help build confidence among the communities. It is particularly important to stabilize the ethnic Macedonian community, which is in a minority situation in Aracinovo. All efforts must be made to help them return to their homes.