UNHCR urges non-European countries to take Kosovo refugees as the refugee crisis in the FYR of Macedonia worsens
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today urged non-European countries to start evacuating Kosovo refugees, as overcrowding in refugee camps in the FYR of Macedonia reached critical proportions.
High Commissioner Sadako Ogata cited the magnitude of the crisis and "the absolute need to preserve the stability of the FYR of Macedonia" as her reasons for seeking an immediate expansion of the evacuation operation.
In a letter addressed Friday to the governments of Australia, Canada and the United States, Ogata asked them to go ahead with plans to start evacuating Kosovo refugees from camps in the Skopje area as soon as possible. Ogata said she was asking European nations to speed up their ongoing evacuations from the FYR of Macedonia as well.
Until now, UNHCR has refrained from taking up offers of overseas evacuations. But the growing stream of refugees, deteriorating conditions in the overcrowded camps and the mounting anxiety of the Macedonian authorities have forced UNHCR to change its stance.
Although European nations have offered around 85,000 places to receive Kosovar refugees, only 25,000 have been flown out of Macedonia since the humanitarian evacuation air bridge started on April 5th. But during the same period more than 80,000 new refugees streamed into Macedonia, further straining the reception capacity of Macedonia's hopelessly overcrowded refugee camps.
The evacuation is organised jointly by UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration.
On Thursday 7,500 refugees crossed into the FYR of Macedonia. By early afternoon Friday, 5,000 new refugees had poured across the border, bringing to the number of Kosovo refugees in Macedonia to more than 165,000.