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FYR of Macedonia: ethnic Albanians continue to flee

Briefing notes

FYR of Macedonia: ethnic Albanians continue to flee

12 June 2001

Thousands of ethnic Albanians continue to flee the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia amid clashes between rebels and government forces and rising tension between Macedonia's ethnic groups. On Monday alone, an estimated 5,300 people crossed the main border crossing at Blace. UNHCR workers monitoring the border 24 hours a day said the flow was continuing today (Tuesday). While those moving at the weekend came primarily from the village of Aracinovo, outside of Skopje, the people who arrived on Monday came mostly from Skopje itself and its outskirts. They cited growing tension between Macedonia's ethnic communities and the threat of a military confrontation in the immediate vicinity of Skopje as the main reasons for their departure. An overwhelming majority of those arriving are women and children with only very few men. While women and children without proper documentation were being allowed out by the Macedonian border guards, men were being turned back at the official border crossing. Some were trying to reach Kosovo on small mountain roads. Many of those arriving at the border walked the last few kilometres after being dropped off by friends and relatives near the frontier. Some crossed with their vehicles. A few said they walked all the way from Skopje, some 12 kilometres away from the border. Since Friday, nearly 18,000 people have crossed into Kosovo. After receiving food and water at the border, the vast majority are being accommodated with host families.