More displaced civilians return from Kosovo
SKOPJE, July 31 (UNHCR) - The number of ethnic Albanians returning from Kosovo to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has increased sharply in the last few days, the U.N. Refugee Agency said Tuesday.
An estimated 1,000 people have gone back to the village of Aracinovo outside Skopje which had seen some of the worst fighting during the conflict but was reopened during the weekend, according to aid officials. Several thousand others visited the village but decided to wait until the situation became calmer before going home on a permanent basis.
UNHCR has stationed field teams in the town daily to help reduce the level of tension and fear among the returning population and work with the government and other agencies on housing and other infrastructural needs.
The need to restore electricity to operate water pumps and other facilities was considered particularly urgent.
During a visit Sunday, UNHCR Special Envoy Eric Morris assured a representative of the displaced minority ethnic Macedonians that the Refugee Agency would pay particular attention to their needs. He assured all civilians, Albanians and Macedonians, that he would try to facilitate freedom of movement for everyone in the region.
Separate go-and-see visits were continuing to other war-affected villages in the region. Displaced civilians have toured the villages of Neprosteno, Lesko and Tearce. Several families decided to stay in the region's main town, Tetovo, and a couple of families remained in Lesok.
Aid officials said the level of destruction in the village of Neprosteno was relatively low, though some homes had been looted and vandalized. Many civilians were afraid to enter houses because of the fear of unexploded mines. Tearce, a mixed village, had been without electricity since five ethnic Macedonian houses had been torched on Friday night. Lesok was without water.
The main problem, officials said, continued to be worries about security with minority ethnic Macedonians reluctant to return to areas where Albanians were in a majority.