NATO rushing 31 aid flights to help Kosovo refugees
April 5, 1999
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO said Monday it was rushing 31 flights to the Kosovo crisis region to provide 200 tons of emergency food aid to help tens of thousands of refugees huddled on the Albanian and Macedonian border.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, which is working closely with NATO, said that some refugees driven from Kosovo were now receiving food aid, medical assistance and shelter at the newly established transit camp in Brazda, Macedonia.
But the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said tens of thousands of other hungry and exhausted Kosovo refugees were still stranded in no man's land between Kosovo and Macedonia, at the border crossing of Blace.
According to the UNHCR, nearly 400,000 refugees have now fled Kosovo since March 24. Of those, 226,000 are in Albania, 120,000 in Macedonia, 35,700 in Montenegro, 7,900 in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 6,000 in Turkey.
NATO troops from Britain, France and Italy were setting up tents at Brazda, where eventually about 100,000 refugees were to take shelter.
The tent city will serve as one of two holding centers before the refugees are ferried to airports to be flown to other countries.
NATO civilian spokesman Jamie Shea told a news conference in Brussels Monday that "those (refugees) who need the most urgent attention" would be evacuated to a number of countries.
The United States has announced it will take in about 20,000 refugees, and other NATO members said they would put up 100,000 others.
Shea said that, although some NATO countries have agreed to take in refugees, they do not intend to allow the ethnic Albanians to stay indefinitely.
"Clearly, we want the refugees to be able to go back quickly. Those NATO governments who have agreed to receive those refugees have made it clear that this is on a temporary basis," said Shea, reiterating that NATO was insisting the Yugoslav government allow the return of the refugees to restore a multi-ethnic Kosovo.
NATO troops were also setting up an aid camp beside the airport in Tirana, Albania, Monday to handle relief operations.
Two U.S. military transport planes brought in supplies and equipment, including machinery for the quick unloading of aircraft. More planes were expected during the day.
"This initial element of 35 people is preparing the way for 400 to 500 professionals ... to be a larger humanitarian relief force which will provide for the reception and distribution of humanitarian relief supplies," a U.S. military spokesman said.
French military helicopters were also flying shuttle missions to and from the northern border town of Kukes, the main collecting point for refugees who were to be transported farther south in Albania.
Medical officials in Kukes told CNN that many of the refugees showed signs of beating by Serb forces and wounds caused by what the refugees said was shelling of their homes by Yugoslav army and police forces.
"We have food coming in (but) we still need more ready-to-eat food," Red Cross delegate Ellem Berg Svennes told CNN in Kukes.
Germany, which currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, said Monday that the EU's main priority was to look after Kosovo refugees on the ground in camps.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told a news conference in London that NATO troops were stepping up coordinated aid efforts with the UNHCR but were also maintaining the NATO bombing campaign against Serb military targets in Yugoslavia.
Cook bluntly warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic there would be no peace unless he agreed to reverse his policy of driving ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo.
"Don't bother offering peace unless you are prepared to reverse the ethnic cleansing of the war," Cook said.
"Peace in Kosovo without the population of Kosovo would be a hollow mockery. NATO's campaign will continue until the refugees can return to their homes under international protection," he said.
Aid efforts for Kosovo refugees intensified
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.