UNHCR urges the world to receive Kosovo refugees as exodus grows
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today urged states to offer a safe haven to refugees fleeing Serbia's Kosovo province.
"Kosovo's neighbours are swamped and they are no longer able to cope with the influx," said High Commissioner Sadako Ogata. "All nations must now help to save lives," she added.
Ogata said UNHCR is grateful to governments which have offered to host Kosovo refugees. The European Union Presidency has offered, as a first step, to take in 20,000 refugees, of whom 10,000 would be sheltered by Germany. Norway has offered to admit up to 6,000.
"I am encouraged that western governments appreciate the enormity of the refugee drama, which can no longer be handled by Kosovo's immediate neighbours alone", she said.
UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration are working out the details of this operation with governments.
An estimated 350,000 people have fled Kosovo over past 11 days, in the most intense and dramatic refugee exodus since the Balkan wars of the early 1990s. More than 200,000 terrified and exhausted Kosovo Albanians have flooded into Albania, some 115,000 into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and more than 30,000 to Montenegro.
UNHCR says that roads within Kosovo are reportedly packed with tens of thousands of people as Serbian forces press on with their effort to empty the province of its majority Albanian population.
Earlier this week, Ogata urged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to halt the mass expulsions.