NATO nations to take in Kosovo refugees
U.S., Turkey, Germany offer temporary asylum
April 4, 1999
BLACE, Macedonia (CNN) -- With some 300,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo overwhelming Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania, several NATO nations -- including the United States, Turkey, and Germany -- have offered temporary asylum to the refugees.
As many as 100,000 displaced Kosovars could be airlifted to other nations, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Sunday.
But she emphasized the refugees must be allowed to return to Kosovo under the protection of NATO peacekeepers.
"It's an ugly scene how they're being pushed out of their country," Albright said.
Meanwhile, three C130 transport planes from Germany and one C17 from the United States arrived in the Albanian capital of Tirana Sunday, bringing food rations and logistics equipment for distribution by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.
Also arriving in Tirana Sunday were planes carrying humanitarian aid from France, Saudi Arabia, Britain, and Italy.
Julia Taft, U.S. assistant secretary of state for refugees, toured a Macedonian camp Sunday, where international aid workers struggled to distribute plastic sheeting and bread to thousands of people camped in the mud and freezing drizzle, as two Red Cross tents began filling with the sick.
"We will do a burden sharing to temporarily take out of Macedonia large numbers of the refugees for temporary asylum until it is safe for them to go back to their homes in Kosovo," Taft said.
Turkey prepared with tents
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said Sunday that his nation was prepared to shelter 20,000 Kosovo refugees, using extensive stocks of food and tents, held in reserve against a possible repeat of mass migration into the country from the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq.
"This is a humanitarian duty. The Albanians of Kosovo, the Turks, they are our brothers and our relatives," Ecevit said.
The country has deep religious and historical ties to Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, which is primarily Muslim.
Turkey has already taken in more than 5,000 Kosovo refugees, many of them from the small Turkish minority of the Serbian province, who are staying with relatives in Turkey.
Turkey has strongly backed the NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia and has contributed fighter jets to the force.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also said that his country would accept some refugees and would encourage other European Union countries to do the same.
Disease hits Macedonian camps
Reports from the Macedonian border on Sunday indicated diarrhea and meningitis were spreading among the refugees.
Tens of thousands huddled in the freezing rain with little more than plastic sheeting as shelter and no toilets or running water, contributing to the spread of disease.
International aid workers said conditions were deteriorating by the hour.
Macedonia has been especially hard hit by the flood of refugees that have streamed into the tiny country by the tens of thousands during the past few days. On Saturday, Macedonia moved to shut its borders to new arrivals.
Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov said that Macedonia's borders were technically still open, but only to refugees en route to other countries.
Many 'trapped inside Kosovo'
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told CNN on Sunday that many more Kosovo Albanians who have been uprooted from their homes are trapped inside the Serbian province without food or shelter.
"There are over a million still trapped inside Kosovo, living in the woods and on mountains ... they have nothing," he said.
In one strip of Kosovo border area, Shea said about 60,000 people were stuck in a no man's land, and "many of them have been without food now for over 48 hours."
Shea also expressed concern about reports of Serb brutality within Kosovo. "Clearly, there have been atrocities going on," he said.
Some of the refugees arriving in Albania have given detailed reports of atrocities which they say are being carried out by Serbs on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
The BBC received an amateur videotape Saturday of what the cameraman said was evidence of mass killings by Serb forces in Kosovo.
Correspondent Christiane Amanpour contributed to this report.
Kosovo's huddled masses wait for sanctuary
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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