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Ogata appeals for immediate end to violence in Kosovo

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Ogata appeals for immediate end to violence in Kosovo

11 June 1998

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Sadako Ogata, appealed today for an immediate end to violence in Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia:

"I call on all sides to give up violence in Kosovo, which is forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, bringing suffering upon many women and children," Ogata said.

"The conflict is affecting many civilians - Albanians, Serbs and others. I am also worried about some 13,000 refugees, mainly Serbs from Croatia, staying in Kosovo, some of whom have had to flee once again," Ogata said.

In the latest phase of the conflict in western Kosovo, UNHCR estimates around 12,000 people have fled to northern Albania across treacherous mountains - some children had to walk barefoot for days. Northern Albania is one of Europe's most remote and poorest regions, posing enormous challenges to relief efforts.

There is also an increasing security concern in the area, including arms trafficking which threatens to fuel further violence in and around Kosovo.

"I am grateful to the Government and local authorities of Albania for receiving the refugees from Kosovo and for doing whatever they can to help them. I appeal to the international community to support the Albanian government's efforts and together look for solutions which would enable the refugees to go home," Ogata said.

"It is most distressing that since March, altogether around 65,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Kosovo while UNHCR, with the international community, is working hard to solve the situation of 1.8 million people still displaced from the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia."

"I appeal to all parties to put an end to the cycle of violence in Kosovo and prevent forced displacement," Ogata said, warning that further displacement could destablize the entire region.

"Nobody wants another Bosnia," she said.

In addition to the 12,000 people who recently fled from Kosovo to Albania, the Montenegro authorities estimate that about 8,000 people have fled to Montenegro (FRY). Around 45,000 people are estimated to be displaced inside Kosovo, but UNHCR cannot confirm the latest figure in Kosovo since the outbreak of violence in its western region.