Refugee returns to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remain at a trickle
GENEVA, 12 Oct., (UNHCR) - In an indication that the government's intention to grant amnesty lacked credibility among former rebel soldiers, refugee returns to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) continued at a trickle this week, the U.N. Refugee Agency said Friday.
The agency said that the rate of refugee returns ranged from 50 to 100 a day. Since late June, 57,000 refugees have returned to their homes, with another 24,900 remaining in Kosovo.
In addition, there are 44,500 internally displaced persons in the country, according to the [former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonian Red Cross.
Some 120 displaced ethnic Macedonians returned this week to their homes in the mixed village of Neprosteno, 10 kilometres north of the country's largest city of Tetovo, the agency said in a statement.
Most of the ethnic Albanians, who make up 75 percent of Neprosteno's population, remained in the town despite the six-month conflict, but the ethnic Macedonians fled their homes.
The U.N. Refugee Agency distributed relief packages containing mattresses, plastic sheets, hygienic kits, and tools to the returning refugees. UNHCR is also providing funding to both ethnic communities in Neprosteno so they can buy cows, sheep and other animals, allowing them to replace the livestock lost during the conflict.
While the government has been organizing visits for internally displaced persons in an effort to promote returns to the Tetovo region, apprehension persists among many of the refugees, the agency said.
UNHCR has been regularly visiting the region, which is heavily populated with ethnic Albanians, in a effort to help build confidence in the 13 August peace agreement and encourage the return of both the refugees and the internally displaced persons.
Last month, UNHCR began bus service to allow both ethnic Albanians and Macedonians to cross ethnic lines and checkpoints in Tetovo, 60 kilometres west of Skopje. On Thursday the U.N. Refugee Agency began a new bus service between Kumanovo, 40 kilometres west of Skopje, and the nearby villages of Lopate and Opaje.