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World - Europe

Mass refugee exodus from Kosovo

Ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo arrive
in the northern Albanian town of Kukes

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Crisis in Kosovo

March 29, 1999
Web posted at: 8:58 a.m. EST (1358 GMT)

GENEVA (CNN) -- The United Nations refugee agency on Monday warned that a "very grim" situation was developing at the Kosovo border, as tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians streamed out of the Serb province into Albania.

Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said that 30,000 people from Kosovo fled from Kosovo into neighboring Albanian over the weekend.

The UNHCR estimates that the total number of refugees who crossed into northern Albania has reached about 60,000.

"The picture that is emerging is very grim. There appears to be a policy of expulsions of ethnic Albanians."

The Yugoslav authorities closed at least one crossing point into Albanian earlier Monday, erecting concrete barriers along the main road from the Kosovo city of Prizren to the Albanian town of Kukes.

Refugees who did make it across the border told CNN reporter Chris Burns that the authorities made them hand over documents and car license plates, suggesting that they will not be allowed back into the Yugoslavia.

Some of the refugees also told CNN of beatings, executions and looting by Serb forces.

Janowski said Monday that there was still "plenty of fighting" which was pushing people out of Kosovo province, where NATO forces have been bombing Serb military targets in what the alliance says is an effort to bring a halt to the attacks on ethnic Albanians.

NATO says that 500,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Kosovo due to the separatist conflict in the past year.

About 100,000 refugees have fled the fighting by leaving Kosovo for European countries outside the Balkan region.

Janowski said the UNHCR agreed with NATO that the situation was now shaping up to be the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which formally came to an end with the Dayton peace accords in 1995.

No food or medical aid was getting into Kosovo, and pressure was mounting in Albania, already one of the poorest countries in Europe, because of the influx of refugees across the border.

"We are rushing people and supplies there to try to cope," he said.

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  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
  • Kosovo - from

  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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