Turkey welcomes first mass resettlement of Kosovo refugees
Albania protests scattering of Kosovars
April 6, 1999
SKOPJE, Macedonia (CNN) -- Hundreds of ethnic Albanians boarded planes bound for Turkey on Monday, launching a plan to relocate more than 100,000 refugees stuck in dank, overcrowded camps near the borders of Kosovo.
Upon their arrival, the 1,360 refugees were checked by doctors and received food from aid workers. Buses and ambulances lined up outside the airport in the northwestern town of Corlu to take the refugees to their new homes 60 miles away. Some refugees also arrived in Norway.
Turkey has agreed to take in 20,000 refugees in addition to the 6,000 already settled there. The United States has offered to grant temporary asylum to 20,000 people; Germany will accept 40,000, Norway 9,000, Sweden 15,000 and Canada 5,000.
NATO is hoping to ease the growing humanitarian burden on Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro, which have scrambled to handle nearly 400,000 Kosovo Albanians in less than two weeks.
NATO spokesman Jamie 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 multiethnic Kosovo.
Although Albania alone has already been forced to accommodate more than half of the refugees, its government protested plans to resettle the ethnic Albanians across the world.
Albanian officials voiced concern that many refugees might not return to Kosovo when the crisis is over.
"Albania doesn't want to be part of the ethnic cleansing mechanism, which is forcing ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo," said Information Minister Musa Ulqini.
Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told Albanian state television that his country would accept more refugees from Macedonia.
"They will find shelter with their fellow Albanians and share with them the bread and salt," the traditional symbol of hospitality, Milo said.
Hungry, weakened masses stuck in Macedonia
Aid agencies said tens of thousands of refugees remained stranded in a cold and muddy no man's land between Yugoslavia and Macedonia, without proper food supplies and increasingly prone to disease.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Monday it was vital to get the 85,000 refugees out of the border zone, which has been barred to international aid agencies by the Macedonian authorities, who have been moving slowly in registering the incoming wave of exhausted and often traumatized refugees.
However, CNN Correspondent Mike Boettcher managed to cross into the refugee mass near the Macedonian border area of Blace. He observed people apparently suffering from bad health and sickness.
Some ethnic Albanian refugees said that a fair number of people were sick and that some had died.
"We need to get these people out," UNHCR spokeswoman Paula Ghebini said.
"It is terrible there. It is extremely muddy. The rain is not helping. We have already weakened people who went through a harrowing experience for four days. They waited at the border; they have not eaten," she said.
The UNHCR, which is coordinating aid efforts with NATO, said Monday that refugees were now being moved to the newly established transit camp in Brazda, near Blace, where they received food aid, medical assistance and shelter.
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.
European Union countries have begun flying food, tents, medical supplies and other equipment to Kosovo's neighbors.
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.
Israel, citing its own memories of persecution in Europe, sent a 100-bed army field hospital and staff to Macedonia on Tuesday to help ethnic Albanian refugees fleeing Kosovo.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was driven to act because of its memory of the Holocaust in Europe during World War II when six million Jews were killed.
"This is a humanitarian mission that the people of Israel have immediately mobilized for because we have terrible memories from the soil of Europe and we feel it's our obligation to help where we can.
The quasi-governmental Jewish Agency was also sending aid on three flights this week, the first one to the Albanian capital of Tirana. The flights will carry tents, blankets, sleeping bags, baby food and powdered milk.
Albania aid base established
NATO troops were also setting up an aid camp beside the airport in Tirana on 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.
More food aid needed
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 Union'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.
NATO rushing 31 aid flights to help Kosovo refugees
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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