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Kosovo crisis latest

Briefing notes

Kosovo crisis latest

13 April 1999

Some 4,800 people crossed to northern Albania from Kosovo between midnight and 05:00 this morning (Tuesday). The majority of them were driving tractors with trailers pulling cars that ran out of petrol.

Some 300 refugees were from Zrze, in Orahovac municipality. They said they were part of the queue which had been turned back on 4 April, following Yugoslav President Milosevic's cease-fire announcement. They were reportedly told by Serbian police to go back to their village where they stayed in houses surrounded by snipers till 12 April, when the police told them to go to the border. They said they were stripped of their money and their identification documents.

The majority of the refugees who arrived this morning were from Velika Slatina and Mala Slatina, two villages located in the Kosovo Polje municipality, west of Pristina just next to the military airstrip. The refugees said they were ordered by the police to go to Albania, but were not mistreated. They said they had expected this to happen and therefore had had the time to prepare some belongings.

The refugees who crossed at 03:30 alleged that Serbian soldiers at the border shot and killed a young woman who tried to escape being taken by them Her family were allegedly detained by the Serbs.

At 05:00 when the cars stopped crossing, an Albanian police officer told UNHCR that according to his knowledge, 20 tractors were still being kept on the Serbian side.

In FYR of Macedonia, UNHCR is carrying out a general registration of the refugee population, starting with those staying in the Brazda camp. The registration will make it possible for UNHCR to manage delivery of assistance to the camp, to reunite divided families, and to identify candidates for humanitarian evacuation to other countries. UNHCR and its partner agencies are taking over the Macedonian Kosovo refugee camps from NATO. The handover is going smoothly and should be completed next week.

To date, 9,351 refugees have been evacuated by air from FYR of Macedonia, with the biggest numbers travelling to Germany (5,434) and to Turkey (3,098). 1,364 people were evacuated on Monday alone.

The High Commissioner returned late Saturday night from her trip to Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In both countries she stressed the need for borders to remain open to refugees from Kosovo, and she reiterated UNHCR's commitment to protecting and assisting the refugees. She emphasized the need to ensure the civilian character of refugee camps and settlements.