Hour after hour, Kosovo refugees flow into neighboring countries
More than 130,000 have fled
April 1, 1999
GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of Kosovar Albanians streamed across the borders into neighboring countries Thursday as aid agencies prepared to deal with the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Kris Janowski of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said northern Albania was taking the brunt of the influx of refugees from Kosovo, but Macedonia also was "virtually flooded" with fleeing ethnic Albanians.
One development, he said, is that Serbs had sent at least three trainloads of people into Macedonia in "what one could describe as a new phenomenon of ethnic cleansing by train."
According to the latest UNHCR figures more than 130,000 people have fled to surrounding countries from Kosovo since March 24 -- an increase of 30,000 people since Tuesday.
"It's growing by the hour and it's growing by the day," Janowski said.
Janowski estimated 10,000 people crossed into Macedonia Wednesday and about 30,000 went to Albania. He said thousands more fled to Montenegro.
A total of 580,000 people have either been displaced from their homes in Kosovo or have left the region, according to NATO.
"The new arrivals talked of being forced from their homes with death threats and watching the buildings being torched as they left," the UNHCR said in a report on its Internet site.
U.N. World Food Program chief Catherine Bertini told CNN Thursday that there was a heavy burden on Albanians faced with accommodating the thousands of ethnic Albanian Kosovars flooding into their country.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said that $25 million in aid was being added to $25 million already announced for the area to help care for the refugees.
He said there was enough food in Albania to feed about 100,000 people for several weeks. Bacon said before hostilities began enough food had been "pre-positioned" to feed 400,000 people for six months. However, some of that food is in Belgrade and some of it is in Kosovo.
Bacon said aid agencies hoped to gain access to at least part of that food to feed refugees.
International aid agencies, including the WFP, UNHCR and the International Committee for the Red Cross have all stepped up their refugee aid efforts.
Wednesday's aid deliveries included a WFP shipment of 40 tons of wheat flour and 10 tons of high protein biscuits from the Albanian capital Tirana to the northern town of Kukes, where tens of thousands of refugees were welcomed and got their first emergency aid.
Grim tales recounted by refugees
Thousands more refugees crossed into Albania on Wednesday and Thursday, and many of them again told CNN that Serb military and police forces expelled them under threat of death, torched and plundered their homes and villages, and took their remaining money before they were forced to cross the border. CNN correspondents in Kukes observed Serb units forcing refugees to hand over identification papers and car license plates -- a move that may bar the refugees from re- entering Kosovo at a later date.
On Wednesday, Albanian police had to intervene to stop impoverished local residents from trying to steal money or valuables from incoming refugees.
According to eyewitness accounts, the line of ethnic Albanians moving towards the Albanian border was still several kilometers long.
CNN correspondents in Montenegro and Macedonia also heard many tales of death, destruction and suffering from the refugees.
The authorities in Montenegro told CNN that thousands of refugees had found shelter with local families.
Food is said to be scarce, though, and the government has issued an appeal for international aid, saying the refugee problem is more than the province can bear over time.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Chris Burns contributed to this report.
Time Daily - April 1, 1999: Refugees in Montenegro: Bad, and Getting Worse
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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