More Kosovo refugees flown out of Macedonia
Situation remains dire for thousands of others
April 6, 1999
SKOPJE, Macedonia (CNN) -- Macedonia on Tuesday pushed ahead with its efforts to fly Kosovo refugees out of the country, but tens of thousands more remained stranded under extremely difficult conditions in an area close to the border between Yugoslavia and Macedonia.
The U.N. refugee agency, meanwhile, was chairing a 56-nation donor conference in Geneva to decide which countries could give aid to the Kosovo refugees and how many refugees each nation could take in.
According to the latest figures by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 460,000 people have been driven out of Kosovo. Of those, 260,000 fled to Albania, 136,000 to Macedonia and 61,000 to the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro.
UNHCR chief Sadako Ogata said the exodus of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo was a "forced, planned and directed" evacuation masterminded by the Serb-led Yugoslav government of President Slobodan Milosevic.
170 refugees flown to Turkey
She reiterated a call to countries to take in Kosovo refugees "on an exceptional and temporary basis."
On Tuesday, another 170 ethnic Albanian refugees in Macedonia were put on a plane bound for Turkey as part of an airlift that began Monday.
Turkey has strong historical and religious ties with the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo and the province's small Turkish minority, dating back to the Ottoman rule of the Balkans.
Turkey has said it will accept 20,000 refugees. The first group arrived at Corlu in western Turkey on Monday and were taken to a tent city near the town of Kirklareli, close to the Bulgarian border, according to the Turkish state-run Anatolian news agency.
The refugees were only told where they would be taken shortly before they boarded the plane. Some ethnic Albanians were clearly distressed and protested that they were bound for Turkey.
Also Monday, hundreds of Kosovo refugees were flown to Norway, carrying few belongings and showing clear signs of the suffering and desolation they had experienced in the past days.
Critical refugee situation at Blace
In Macedonia, about 65,000 refugees remained stranded in a muddy no man's land at Blace on Tuesday, without adequate food and in extremely unsanitary conditions.
Aid officials told CNN that at least 50 people had died in that area, which the Macedonian government has put off-limits to international aid agencies.
Macedonia maintains that no more than 20,000 can stay in the country, saying a massive influx could destabilize the nation.
Thousands of the Blace refugees have been transported to a nearby tent city erected and run by NATO, in cooperation with the UNHCR, at Brazda.
British officials said that camp could accommodate a total of 60,000 people.
Albania to take in more refugees
Fearing that Kosovo Albanians may be dispersed far from their homeland, the Albanian government has protested plans to settle many of them in Western countries and has agreed to accept more refugees who had sought shelter in Macedonia.
Albanian officials worry that refugees who leave the area might not return when the conflict is over.
"Albania doesn't want to be part of the ethnic cleansing mechanism, which is forcing ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo," Information Minister Musa Ulqini said.
Meanwhile, officials from Greece and Italy on Tuesday were setting up tent cities for about 100,000 refugees in Kukes, Albania, a northern town close to the border.
'We're not going to go away'
Ogata told the Geneva donor conference, which also includes 30 humanitarian organizations, that a "prolonged period of sustained assistance" was needed.
"Solutions, for the overwhelming majority, mean returning to their homes as soon as possible," she said.
British Defense Secretary George Robertson, speaking at a news conference in London on Tuesday, said NATO would not rest until the Kosovo Albanians would be allowed back into their homeland.
He said Milosevic should be under that NATO would one day simply stop its efforts: "We're not going to go away."
Along with Turkey, 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.Correspondents Christiane Amanpour and Matthew Chance contributed to this report.
Turkey welcomes first mass resettlement of Kosovo refugees
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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