Kosovo Crisis Update
Balkans Crisis Meet
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, and her Special Envoy, Dennis McNamara, are participating in a two-day high level meeting convened in Geneva by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss the Kosovo crisis. The meeting closes Friday.
UNHCR also will join the U.N. humanitarian mission which will depart for Belgrade on Saturday to assess the needs in the region. The 12-day mission includes a visit to Kosovo.
UNHCR has received new contributions to its operation to help Kosovo refugees, following a warning earlier this week that unless it received substantial new cash the relief programme would grind to a halt.
A 20 million Euro contribution announced Wednesday by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) put UNHCR's programmes for the Kosovars at more than $100 million. New contributions from Canada, France and Ireland have also helped to ease the immediate cash shortfall, which remains serious.
UNHCR had appealed for $143 million for the January-June programme.
Japan is the biggest single contributor, with $23.1 million, or more than 20 percent of all funding received.
Only one person crossed the Morini border into Albania Thursday - the lowest number since the influx began on March 27. (Around 2,800 people arrived that day).
The smallest previous figure was 13 persons on April 25. There was no immediate reason for this drop though NATO airstrikes were the heaviest to date along this stretch of the border. There were strikes near the town of Zur, a border town with a pre-war population of some 6,000.
The one person to cross the border was from Prizren, a man who was picked up late Wednesday at work and told he would be thrown out the next day. He said he saw 15 other people from Prizren trying to leave but they were turned back at the border.
For the last several weeks, Serbian authorities have been picking up educated Prizren people at work and expelling them immediately.
A total of 4,689 refugees left Kukes Thursday for points further inside Albania.
Because of the generally volatile situation in the Kukes region, UNHCR said its personnel would observe an 11 p.m. curfew starting Saturday.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has signed an agreement with the Albanian government to help families hosting refugees. Under the agreement, the equivalent of $10 in local currency will be given monthly for each refugee a family hosts, up to $120 per family. UNHCR is setting aside $8 million for three months for the project which will cover 35,000 families.
The cash arrangement, retroactive to 1 April, will be implemented once host families have been registered.
In addition, the Red Cross will also attempt to distribute food parcels regularly.
There are 120 communal centres which are being repaired with funds from the international community. Also being improved are so-called "mixed sites" - communal centres and tented facilities.
There are 46 tented camps which have either been completed or are under construction in 10 prefectures - Kukes, Shkoder, Leyhe, Durres, Tirana, Elbasan, Fier, Korce, Viore and Gjrokaster.
Of the estimated 431,000 refugees in Albania, nearly 140,000 are in camps or communal centres. The rest are with host families.
FYR of Macedonia
Fifty nine people arrived at Blace border crossing Thursday. The arrivals included 47 people on a train who were all allowed to cross even though many did not have passports and some did not even have ID cards. It was the first time that people without proper documents were allowed to cross the Serbian and Macedonian borders since last week when the entry points were sealed off.
The arrivals said they had been forced out of their homes weeks ago and had been moving from village to village. They said many other people were waiting for a chance to leave.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has reached agreement with UNICEF, WHO and NGO representatives to conduct a series of health and nutrition surveys in the camps in collaboration with the Macedonian Mother and Child Health Institute. The plan is to begin in Stenkovec I and complete the project within two weeks. Additional efforts are underway to organize a similar survey among refugees staying with families in the villages.
Republic of Montenegro
Hundreds of Kosovars have been entering Montenegro in the past days. Exact numbers are difficult to pin down because the new arrivals go directly to the coastal municipality of Ulcinj and others stop in Rozaje.
Rozaje municipality reports around 1,700 people have arrived since Monday. They came on foot from Pec and Srbica areas. Many were young men coming alone. Like the new arrivals in Macedonia, they say they have been on the move for weeks.
UNHCR-IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme
The humanitarian evacuation programme slowed on Thursday, dipping below the 2,000 mark and putting a damper on hopes the daily rate of departures for third countries from Skopje would be maintained or exceeded.
A total of 1,523 left under the programme on Thursday. This included 268 to Canada, 213 to Germany, 157 to Ireland, 371 to Italy, 148 to Norway, 166 to Switzerland and 200 to Turkey.
So far, more than 44,500 refugees have departed under the programme in which UNHCR has received offers for 135,000 places in 39 countries. UNHCR is still looking at ways to step up departures.