|AT A GLANCE
- Tens of thousands of new refugees, some recounting stories
of summary executions and torture, arrive in Albania as the humanitarian crisis continues
- At least 262,000 Kosovars have now arrived in that
neighboring state and the total number of refugees leaving since March 24 totals more than
430,000. In addition to those in Albania, they include 120,000 in Macedonia (FYROM),
36,700 in Montenegro, 7,900 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 6,000 in Turkey. (see table
below for UNHCR figures as at 6 April 1999, 07:00 GMT)
- High Commissioner Sadako Ogata tells an international
emergency meeting that the enforced evacuation from Kosovo is an attempt to "destroy
its collective identity."
- UNHCR issues guidelines on the evacuation of refugees to
temporary safety, emphasizing family unity, family reunification and that all movements
must be voluntary.
As the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo continued to deepen,
tens of thousands of refugees flooded into Albania Monday and Tuesday, many reporting
atrocity stories of summary execution and torture.
UNHCR field staff said at least 25,000 Kosovars arrived at
the main Albanian border point at Morina between Monday and Tuesday mornings and a further
15,000 at the mountain frontier of Qafe Prushit, bringing the estimated total to 262,000.
Virtually every Kosovar arriving at Qafe Prushit came on
foot "in very, very bad physical condition" according to field workers, some
with reports of widespread atrocities. Though these reports could not be independently
verified, refugees interviewed told similar tales of para-military groups linked to Arkan
unleashing a wave of terror in the Djakovica area of Kosovo.
The reports said men were being both tortured and even
executed in front of their families. There were, in fact, few men crossing the border
Monday with the women, children and elderly.
The situation at the crossing itself was extremely tense.
Serbian police stationed just opposite the Albanian border post warned journalists they
would shoot if the correspondents approached. The police told aid officials to withdraw
500 meters from the crossing.
Morina was again deluged with waves of refugees. Many
people came by car and there was a huge wagon train of vehicles waiting to cross. Others
traveled by bus and were dropped off several kilometers from the border and walked to the
crossing. The arrivals came from several parts of Kosovo, including Pristina, Mitrovica
Increased supplies of food were reaching the refugees in
Albania. A total of 60 metric tonnes of food was lifted by helicopter and trucks to the
main refugee staging point at Kukes.
Four cases of measles were reported among the refugees,
and vaccines are being shipped into the area immediately by UNICEF and WHO.
In Macedonia an estimated 14,000 people had been moved
from the chaotic border area into transit centers. About half were accommodated at Brazda
and another 7,000 at four tented sites at Radusa, Neprosteno, Bojane and Stankovic, all of
which can accommodate additional refugees.
Throughout Monday UNHCR officials and a food convoy were
harassed by government officials at Bojane, before NATO officials intervened. There were
also continuing difficulties with registration procedures. UNHCR has yet to receive a
single registration list or advance notification of when, where and how refugees are being
moved from the border area.
That region remained chaotic, with at least 65,000 people
milling around in muddy, open fields in no-man's land, while the nearby centers remained
In Montenegro, an estimated 1,000 refugees arrived Monday
in Rozaje from the Kosovo region of Istok after walking for 13 hours. A bridge on the main
road from Montenegro to Mitrovica was blown up by NATO airstrikes during the weekend,
possibly halting an earlier movement of refugees from that region.
The Istok refugees said military operations began in that
region a week earlier and many people had been hiding in nearby woods since then. Shelling
began again during the weekend.
Earlier arrivals in Montenegro are now being moved to
camping sites on the coast where they are being housed in tents.
High Commissioner Sadako Ogata said Tuesday the forced
exodus from Kosovo was a deliberate attempt to "destroy its collective
identity." She told an emergency international meeting in Geneva that the expulsion
of huge numbers of Kosovars was "forced, planned and directed" which made the
crisis "all the more unmanageable and destabilizing."
Mrs. Ogata delivered her remarks to the opening session of
the Humanitarian Issues Working Group (HIWG) which was convened to review the crisis and
its implications for countries inside and outside the region. Fifty-six nations including
Albania, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Macedonia (FYROM) attended the one-day
session as well as the heads of humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The High Commissioner repeated a call she made earlier in
the emergency, urging countries beyond Kosovos immediate neighbors to take in
refugees on a temporary and exceptional basis to help ease the immediate crisis.
Long-term, she said, "Solutions for the overwhelming
majority means returning to their homes as soon as possible" backed by a strong
international commitment to the stability of Kosovo.
UNHCR issued a set of guidelines and criteria covering
temporary refuge as the first officially evacuated refugees left the region. UNHCR said
all evacuations had to be on a voluntary basis only, with every effort made to respect
family unity and, wherever possible, family reunification in cases where members have been
separated during their initial flight. Priority should be given to particularly vulnerable
people or those with special needs, though everyone should be medically fit to sustain
Thus far a total of 70,000 places have been made available
to Kosovars from countries including Germany, the United States, Turkey, Canada and
Ninety people left Monday for Norway. Another 1,360 went
to Turkey, but UNHCR expressed concern that the majority of these people had not been
properly registered before they left and that any transfers should be completely
voluntary. A special UNHCR team was en route to Skopje to handle future refugee