United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees chairs emergency meeting on Kosovo refugees
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Sadako Ogata, today warned an emergency high-level meeting of the Humanitarian Issues Working Group (HIWG) in Geneva that the dramatic events in Kosovo were an attempt to "destroy its collective identity," and called for an international commitment to ensure the safety of those fleeing the province.
The one-day session has been convened by UNHCR to address the fast evolving Kosovo refugee crisis and its implications for countries in and outside the region. It is attended by 56 States, including Albania, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as the heads of humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations.
In her opening statement, the High Commissioner said that the dramatic increase in violence and human rights abuses in Kosovo created an unrelenting flow which has overwhelmed aid workers.
The refugee flood-tide is "forced, planned and directed", Mrs. Ogata stated, adding that this makes it "all the more unmanageable and destabilizing."
The High Commissioner cautioned that urgent efforts to help refugees should not detract from the search for long-term stability in the area.
"Solutions, for the overwhelming majority, means returning to their homes as soon as possible," Ogata told the assembly, saying that a strong, international commitment to the security of the Kosovo population would be necessary to guarantee this.
Ogata stressed that the priority to provide safety for the refugees now meant a burden-sharing effort involving countries beyond Kosovo's neighbours. She has appealed to countries to take in Kosovar refugees on an exceptional and temporary basis.