Kosovo Crisis Update
Despite the breakdown early today of talks between NATO and the Yugoslav army on the military implementation of the peace agreement, intense planning for the return of refugees and internally displaced people continues.
UNHCR is meeting today with other UN agencies and will convene two meetings on Wednesday, one with representatives of NGOs and another with donor countries on the return issue. UNHCR and its partners will need to go into Kosovo quickly, as soon as security is assured, in order to assist the internally displaced and to prepare for returns.
UNHCR is concerned about the situation of the remaining Serbian civilian population in Kosovo, once the Yugoslav forces withdraw. UNHCR believes that the Kosovo Serbs' right to remain in their home areas must be safeguarded, as the return proceeds.
Detailed planning is underway within UNHCR and with its partners on the key sectors of shelter, food, logistics, health, and community services. A mass information campaign will be launched in the asylum countries in an effort to provide the refugees with information about return and assistance as well as to raise awareness of the risks posed by land mines, unexploded ordnance and booby-traps.
In the Albanian border town of Kukes, UNHCR over the weekend met with representatives of numerous UN agencies, NGOs, NATO and the OSCE to draw up various contingency plans related to return, and to the possibility of refugees heading back to Kukes from other parts of Albania.
The majority of the over 400,000 Kosovars in Albania came through the Morini crossing in Kukes. Around 100,000 remain in the Kukes area. UNHCR has already prepositioned supplies there to meet the needs of up to 100,000 people coming in from other parts of Albania and repatriating through the Morini crossing.
Rockets and mortar rounds fell in areas of northern Albania as fighting between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army continued over the weekend.
UNHCR and government trucks evacuated more than 800 refugees from Krume in northern Albania to a collective centre in Puke and the others to a camp in Shkodra to the west. Some of the evacuees were accommodated at a tented warehouse in Kukes town.
Meanwhile, around 300 people fled into Albania from Kosovo over the past three days. On Friday, 131 refugees crossed the Morini border. On Saturday, just 86 refugees crossed. All were former prisoners from the Smrekovnica prison near Kosovska Mitrovica town. They recounted beatings that they received from their Serbian captors after the announcement of the peace agreement on Thursday before they were released. They said all their valuables were taken away upon their imprisonment. They were put on buses to the border on Saturday and had to walk 15 kilometres to the Morini crossing. The only new arrivals at the Morini border crossing on Sunday were 82 men, all released from the Smrekovnica prison. They also said they had been severely beaten by Serbian soldiers.
Altogether more than 2,500 detainees have been released from this prison and arrived in northern Albania over the past two weeks. Some reported that their release was to make room for new detainees.
FYR of Macedonia
Around 800 people crossed into the FYR of Macedonia over the past three days amid artillery and mortar fire heard from the Kosovo side of the border.
The arrivals say Serbian troops were continuing a campaign of violence in major cities in Kosovo, evicting residents from their homes at gunpoint, looting and burning houses. Villages in the Gnjilane area were reported to be empty.
There were also a significant number of arrivals who had no documents, particularly among the 119 people who came in through the Tabanovce border. They said Serbian authorities in some places apparently have been allowing people to leave even without passports, reversing a policy enforced over the past week.
In some areas, there were reports among refugees from Pristina, Gnjilane, Kosovska Kamenica and Pec that the number of paramilitary and police forces had even increased despite the announcement in Belgrade that as part of the peace arrangement the military and police would withdraw from Kosovo.
In Pristina, police have been handing out new registration papers for residents, possibly in a bid to prevent those who have left from returning.
In another development, an angry group of Kosovars at Stenkovec I camp attacked a family belonging to the Roma ethnic group on Saturday after a member was identified by a refugee as having allegedly been involved in the killing of his father in Podujevo town.
Rioting broke out until UNHCR, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, and NGO staff intervened. Some staff members suffered minor injuries during the rioting.
Meanwhile efforts continue to improve camp conditions as summer sets in. Oxfam is installing additional taps to improve water supply at Stenkovec I. Food distribution has also improved at Radusa camp and repairs for the collective centre there are being made.
On Saturday, 84 refugees volunteered to go to Korce in Albania under a UNHCR programme to decongest camps in the FYR of of Macedonia. So far, 835 refugees have relocated to Korce.
Republic of Montenegro
Sixty seven new arrivals were reported in Montenegro on Friday. No information is available yet on any new arrivals over the weekend.
UNHCR continues to try to improve facilities at Ulcinj where arrivals from the Montenegrin border town of Rozaje are being moved because of tensions prompted by increased military activity.
Preparations for a new camp site are being completed to accommodate 600 new arrivals, including 463 people encamped at the Ulcinj bus station.
Two trailers arrived from Belgrade over the weekend, bringing 100 cooking stoves, 1,000 mattresses, 40 rolls of plastic roofing, 20 plastic rolls for windows and 10 boxes of forks and knives.
UNHCR-IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme
Over the past three days, 1,460 refugees in the FYR of Macedonia departed under the humanitarian evacuation programme of UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration. In the lowest number of departures so far, only 163 left for the United Kingdom on Saturday and 160 flew to Portugal on Sunday. Friday's departures totalled 1,137 to seven countries.
So far 77,935 have departed under the programme in which UNHCR has received offers for 137,000 places in 40 countries.