FYR of Macedonia: new bus line opens
UNHCR opened a new bus line today linking the ethnic Albanian village of Selce to the the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's second largest town of Tetovo in a programme to promote freedom of movement across volatile ethnic lines and checkpoints. The bus will transport workers and students from Selce, a village of 3,200 ethnic Albanians, to Tetovo, 60 km west of Skopje. Selce is located 10 km north-west of Tetovo, where heavy fighting broke out during the six-month ethnic Albanian insurgency in the country.
UNHCR has been operating four bus lines in Tetovo and the Kumanovo region, transporting both communities across ethnic lines and helping foster confidence in the 13 August peace agreement. The opening of the bus lines has allowed refugees and internally displaced people to return to their villages.
Since late June, around 60,000 people have returned from Kosovo to FYROM. The rate of returns has slowed to a trickle of less than 50 per day since the weekend. The estimated 16,000 refugees remaining in Kosovo are reported to be waiting for an amnesty law to be enacted.
Meanwhile, UNHCR is continuing its confidence-building programmes in FYROM. UNHCR field teams have so far visited 80 of 91 conflict-affected regions. Distribution of assistance continues. On Monday, UNHCR began handing out 1,050 returnee packages in the village of Aracinovo 10 km east of Skopje. The packages to be distributed this week contain blankets, mattresses, hygienic kits, jerry cans and plastic sheeting.