Accessed 29 April 1999

Refugees Daily 29 April 1999

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KOSOVANS: DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS 29 Apr. 99 – US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott discussed the Kosovo crisis with the heads of the International Red Cross and UNHCR in Geneva yesterday, reports Reuters. Talbott, who was in Moscow Tuesday as part of diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, saw UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata and then Cornelio Sommaruga, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a US spokesman said. US officials gave no details of the discussions. An ICRC spokesman said Talbott had expressed support for the ICRC's decision to send representatives back into Kosovo if it received safety guarantees. Officials said Talbott discussed with Ogata the hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians who have fled to neighbouring states. Meanwhile the Washington Post in Berlin reports Talbott yesterday said the US and its allies were close to an agreement with Russia on an international peacekeeping force for Kosovo. "Important areas of commonality" have raised hopes for a common approach to a peace deal that would end NATO's bombing campaign in return for the withdrawal of Serb forces and the repatriation of refugees. [US's Talbott meets humanitarian chiefs on Kosovo –; US Envoy Sees Progress with Russians on Balkans –]

KOSOVANS: AID SYSTEM WILL HOLD, SAYS US 29 Apr. 99 – With conditions worsening, the United States said yesterday it would not allow the international assistance effort for Kosovan refugees to break down, reports AFP in Washington. "We will build enough flexibility into the system so that the system doesn't break, it will bend," said Brian Atwood, the coordinator for US assistance to the refugees. "And it will bend over the next few weeks," he added, as reports from the region indicated that camps in Albania and Macedonia were overflowing and relief agencies becoming harder pressed to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of refugees. "We cannot allow (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic to defeat us with refugees," Atwood said, referring to the relentless Serb ethnic cleansing campaign. Atwood also announced he had appointed Ted Morse, a senior official with years of refugee experience, to manage American aid strategy in the Balkans. [US determined not to let Kosovo refugee effort break –]

KOSOVANS: COSTS TO SPIRAL 29 Apr. 99 – The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have said the short-term cost of the Kosovo conflict is likely to be more than US$2bn, reports BBC News. The cost includes paying for humanitarian aid to 600,000 refugees and boosting the economies of the countries most affected – Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania. The Guardian reports their document, entitled Economic Consequences of the Kosovo Crisis, paints a devastating picture of the impact on the countries surrounding the war zone. It reports that more than 5% of gross domestic product will be wiped out this year, plunging the countries deep into recession and raising unemployment at a time when they are having to absorb 600,000 refugees. Meanwhile Reuters reports IMF and World Bank officials said the estimated cost of more than US$300m for dealing with refugees through the end of the year could rise significantly. "Refugee costs are going to escalate sharply if we get into the business of trying to house refugees through the winter," IMF's Michael Deppler said. He noted that by October harsh weather conditions in northern Albania and Macedonia will require refugees be moved from tents to more permanent housing, sending costs spiralling. But AFP reports World Bank president James Wolfensohn warned the cost of bolstering the neighbouring economies would far outweigh the money needed to cope with the refugee problem. [Kosovo costs neighbours $2bn, so far –; Balkan economies devastated –; Kosovo refugee, economic costs could spiral – IMF –; Wolfensohn wants Kosovo aid office within a month –]

KOSOVANS: DON'T FORGET THOSE INSIDE 29 Apr. 99 – Three prominent ethnic Albanians who have escaped or been driven out of Kosovo pleaded with the international community yesterday not to forget their compatriots still stranded in Kosovo, reports Reuters in Brussels. At a news conference with European Union Humanitarian Commissioner Emma Bonino, they said displaced people trapped inside Kosovo desperately needed food and other supplies. "It's really, really very bad, and they desperately need food and other supplies," said Blerim Shala, editor of the independent Pristina weekly Zeri, who was a member of Kosovo's delegation to the Rambouillet peace talks. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports the three said there was little hope that the refugees would go home without the presence of NATO troops. AP reports Vjosa Dobruna said the international community should have anticipated the violence unfolding in Kosovo and acted earlier, adding: "NATO air strikes were launched too late for the civilian population in Kosovo." [Don't forget Kosovars left behind, refugees say –; International community ignored warning signs on Kosovo, human rights campaigner says –; Kosovar Albanians call for NATO force to ensure return of refugees –]

ALBANIA: THOUSANDS MORE FORCED OUT 29 Apr. 99 – A new wave of terrified Kosovo refugees poured over the border into Albania yesterday, describing scenes of mass executions and forced evacuations by Serb forces, reports CNN. About 4,000 Kosovans, mostly women, children and elderly men, entered Albania on Tuesday and yesterday, the largest influx since April 16-18. Many of the refugees said Serb police ordered them to flee their homes and then separated young men from the group near the village of Meja. AP reports thousands of traumatised Kosovo Albanian women and children crossed into Albania yesterday, telling of a heightened Serb campaign to flush them from Kosovo. [New refugees describe forced evacuation, possible massacre –; Latest wave of Kosovo refugees allege new Serb atrocities –]

ALBANIA: MASS EXECUTION REPORTED 29 Apr. 99 – United Nations officials yesterday said the latest group of refugees entering Albania from Kosovo – almost exclusively women, old men and children – are giving consistent reports of what appeared to be a mass execution near Jacovica, reports the New York Times in Kukes. UNHCR's Ray Wilkinson said refugees told of being forced to leave their homes in Meja and Oriza Tuesday before Serbian forces stopped them and took away the young men. Refugees later reported seeing more than 100 bodies in a ditch and an open field. "It looks very ominous," Wilkinson said. "If it is true, this would be one of the single biggest atrocities" committed by Serbian forces in Kosovo. Many refugees who crossed the border yesterday told monitors that they, too, had seen a large number of bodies in Meja. Many of the bodies had been burned, they said. The Washington Post reports UNHCR officials said they had interviewed 60 wagonloads of refugees who told of being halted at the field near Meja and that many reported the detention of male relatives. "We've talked to at least 20 people who've reported seeing the bodies," Wilkinson added. "We're confident of the basic facts but less certain about the numbers." BBC News, the Guardian and the Independent also report. [New Reports of Charred Bodies in a Kosovo Town –; Refugees Report Roadside Slaughter –; 'Biggest massacre yet' in Kosovo –; Refugees tell of fresh massacres –; Scores of male bodies piled in heaps –]

ALBANIA: MORE AID NEEDED 29 Apr. 99 – Western countries must increase their assistance for Albania to help Europe's poorest country deal with the Kosovo Albanian refugee crisis, a UNHCR spokeswoman said yesterday, reports Reuters. "The Albanian government is prepared to take in all refugees which flee there, but in order to take in 300,000 refugees the region needs the maximum help," Judith Kumin told the Berlin-based radio station InfoRadio. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo on Tuesday told the European Union troika of Austria, Germany and Finland that Albania would need US$820m in economic and humanitarian aid to the end of the year. Kumin also appealed to European countries to honour their pledges to airlift refugees from camps in Macedonia. Le Monde carries an interview with Albanian President Rexhep Meidani saying the flood of refugees is costing Albania US$33m a month. "We're sheltering more than 300,000 deported Albanians and given that we have to spend US$3 per person per day, we arrive at US$33m a month . . . If the refugees stay until the end of December, we'll need US$600m, to which US$255m more must be added to plug the budget deficit and carry out certain projects,'' he said. [UNHCR-Albania needs more help to support refugees –; Partition of Kosovo would open door to permanent war –]

MACEDONIA: THOUSANDS MORE AT MISERY BORDER 29 Apr. 99 – Up to 4,000 more Kosovo refugees arrived at the main Blace border crossing into Macedonia yesterday, flooding already overflowing camps, reports Reuters. UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said a train had arrived from Pristina, and witnesses said 20 buses came from there and Urosevac. Five or six refugees were killed when they strayed into a minefield northeast of Blace, Macedonia's information ministry said. One refugee said she had been hit by a sniper. Conditions at Blace, where 3,500 spent the night, were increasingly dreadful. Aid workers had fashioned makeshift shelters from plastic sheeting hung up beside tents. "We may also have to make some rudimentary shelter arrangements in Stankovic,'' Redmond said. A new camp at Cegrane would not be ready until tonight at the earliest, he said. Some 1,700 refugees were airlifted to France, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, the Netherlands, Finland and the Czech Republic. The Times reports misery has returned to the infamous Blace camp, where aid officials admitted that between 400 and 500 refugees, including young children and elderly men and women, were left to sleep on plastic sheets and blankets. They cannot be moved to the larger camps nearby, which are "bursting at the seams." [Kosovo refugees flood Macedonia, camps tense –; Refugees endure hours of misery as camps struggle to cope with exodus –]

MACEDONIA: RIOTS AT CAMPS? 29 Apr. 99 – UNHCR yesterday said overcrowding in camps for Kosovan Albanians in Macedonia had become so extreme refugees were "on the verge of rioting," reports Reuters in Geneva. "The people are really living in unbearable congestion. It's very, very tense and it has to be defused very, very quickly,'' UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told a news briefing in Geneva, adding that the risk of disease outbreaks was also increasing. Reuters adds that a fight broke out over bread yesterday after chronic overcrowding left Stankovic, Macedonia's biggest camp, rippling with tension. A man was reportedly badly beaten by a volunteer helping aid agencies after the man urged him to speed up giving out bread. People had been queuing since 4am. Aid workers at the camp said they could not confirm the report and had not heard of any serious disturbances. But they acknowledged tempers were increasingly frayed as the crowding got worse. The Independent reports refugees penned into squalid, overcrowded Macedonian camps were on the verge of rioting yesterday. [Macedonia refugee camps close to rioting; UNHCR + Fight over bread at Macedonia refugee camp –; Refugees on verge of riot in the camps –]

SERBIA: ETHNIC ALBANIANS 'CLEANSED' 29 Apr. 99 – Refugees say "ethnic cleansing" by Yugoslav forces has also taken place in an area of Serbia near Kosovo, UNHCR said yesterday, reports Reuters. Spokesman Kris Janowski said refugees in Macedonia had told of paramilitary units expelling ethnic Albanians from the Presevo area, close to both Kosovo and the Macedonian border. Although Presevo is not in Kosovo, its population is 95% ethnic Albanian, Janowski told reporters in Geneva. "One particular group (of refugees) spoke of paramilitary forces descending on one of the villages in the Presevo area,'' said Janowski. "They said that they humiliated people, had a young woman stripped in front of the whole village and then kicked everybody out and robbed them of their valuables, but did not kill anybody," he said. "It's an interesting phenomenon because this is basically ethnic cleansing being done in Serbia proper rather than in Kosovo proper," Janowski said. [Serbs "cleansing" outside Kosovo too, refugees say –]

SWITZERLAND: VISAS EASED FOR SOME 29 Apr. 99 – Switzerland yesterday eased visa requirements for injured, sick or pregnant refugees from Kosovo who already have relatives in the country, reports Reuters. Under the new rules approved by the cabinet, visas will be granted to needy refugees whose family members are legal residents of Switzerland and agree to put them up. Switzerland has already taken in some 50,000 asylum seekers from Kosovo, making it one of the prime destinations for ethnic Albanians seeking shelter in the West. The justice ministry said visas would only be granted in hardship cases, especially involving people with war wounds, the ill, pregnant women and those in need of special care. [Swiss ease visa rules for some Kosovo refugees –]

KOSOVO NOTES 29 Apr. 99 – AP reports France's ambassador to Macedonia yesterday called for a "humanitarian corridor" to help refugees flee from Kosovo into Albania. Reuters reports Hollywood hearthrob Richard Gere took tea with ethnic Albanian Kosovo refugees in Macedonia yesterday and promised he would do all he could to help them.

This document is intended for public information purposes only. It is not an official UN document.

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 29/04/99
ęS D Stein
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