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Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: UNHCR urges step-by-step approach

Briefing notes

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: UNHCR urges step-by-step approach

5 October 2001

UNHCR is urging the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to take a step-by-step approach in its plan for security forces to re-enter conflict-affected villages. These steps are outlined in the peace agreement hammered out in August. UNHCR is concerned that a hasty return to these villages will create a second wave of displacement. Because of this government plan to enter the villages and the tension it has provoked, UNHCR was unable to send mobile teams to the field yesterday and today.

The High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, during a visit to Skopje last week, emphasised that one of the essential elements in building confidence in the peace process is the fielding of mixed police in areas regarded as extremely sensitive. The High Commissioner also expressed hopes that progress will be made in the re-establishment of local civil administrations.

In the meantime, UNHCR is negotiating with the government access for UNHCR convoys which will begin delivering next week construction materials to both communities in war-affected villages under its $1.3 million emergency housing repair programme. UNHCR has initially targeted minor repair of 1,500 houses in the Tetovo, Skopje and Kumanovo regions. Other agencies have a similar project for another 4,800 houses. The European Union will undertake rehabilitation of heavily destroyed houses.

The shelter project is part of UNHCR's confidence-building programme that it hopes will lead to the return of refugees and internally displaced people. More than 56,000 refugees have returned to FYROM since July and another 26,000 remain in Kosovo. The [former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonian Red Cross says there are still 41,000 IDPs in the country.