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Kosovo: planning for return continues

Briefing notes

Kosovo: planning for return continues

8 June 1999

Planning for the return of refugees to Kosovo continues, though a final peace settlement for Kosovo has yet to be concluded. The UNHCR Special Envoy, Mr. Dennis McNamara, will hold a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva at 13:00 today.

Meanwhile refugees continue to arrive, albeit in small numbers. Around 500 new arrivals were counted yesterday in the two countries - Albania and FYR of Macedonia.

Yesterday (7 June), 96 men, all former detainees released from the prison at Smrekovnica (near Kosovska Mitrovica) walked across the Morini border into Albania early in the afternoon. They had spent 7 days in jail before being suddenly released Monday morning and bused to near the border. They reported the same stories of beating and deprivation of food told by earlier ex-prisoners.

In the FYR of Macedonia yesterday there were around 420 new arrivals at three border points (Blace: 6, Tabanovce: 100, Vratnice near Jazince: 316). The group which crossed near Jazince came in two groups; one of 261 in the morning and another 55 late in the day - all but a few were young men. They reported that up to 500 women, children and elderly were waiting in the hills on the other side of the border, too weak to make the trek down. They said the group has been in the mountains for months, living on boiled maize. They journeyed on foot to the border for 7 days and nights having set out from Berisha (in Central Kosovo, near Komorane, in Glogovac municipality).

Shells fell on villages in the FYR of Macedonia yesterday for the first time, causing local villagers to flee further into the country for safety. Some have begun to return to their villages today. The conflict continued to spill over into Albania as well. Shelling in the Krume district of northern Albania led nearly 200 refugees to seek UNHCR's help to move to safer areas and has caused displacement of local villagers as well.