New wave of refugees sweeps out of Yugoslavia
Numbers 'beyond comprehension'
April 16, 1999
British military officials estimated Friday that about 800,000 people have been displaced in Kosovo by a reported campaign of "ethnic cleansing" by Serb-led Yugoslav forces. Most of the displaced are ethnic Albanians, who made up the overwhelming majority of Kosovo's population before the refugee crisis began.
Along the border, arriving refugees told of an intense Serb campaign to drive ethnic Albanians out of the region. They said between 100,000 and 200,000 people were on the march, trying to make it to the Albanian and Macedonian borders.
Many of those reaching Albania on Friday were showing the first signs of malnutrition. Food stocks are reported low inside Kosovo, and some of the refugees may have been walking for as long as four days, relief workers said.
Observers report similar concerns in the refugee camp at Stenkovec, Macedonia, where more than 12,000 refugees have arrived since Monday.
"It looks as though this is beginning to escalate again," said Brig. Tim Cross, a NATO commander at the refugee camp in Stenkovec. Cross said his troops have been asked to expand the tent city there, where tens of thousands have sought shelter.
The camp at Stenkovec has enough tents to house 30,000 people. NATO troops have been providing food, water and milk to the refugees, as well as building latrines and water pipelines, Cross said.
"The numbers are beyond comprehension," said Tony Lloyd, Britain's Foreign Office minister, who visited the refugee camps Thursday. "They blind us to reality, but each one is an individual."
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said 4,623 refugees crossed into Albania and about 7,000 entered Macedonia on Thursday.
"It's very clear ... that the refugees arriving at the borders have endured harsh treatment and abuse," Shea said. "They arrive in virtually every case exhausted and dehydrated."
And NATO military officials said Friday the refugees were bringing new stories of mass killings as they crossed the border.
As NATO airstrikes continued for a 24th day, international observers say Yugoslav forces are stepping up efforts to evict ethnic Albanians from their homes in Kosovo, a province of Serbia.
"There are reports that thousands of young men have been murdered. I hesitate to quote a more precise estimate," said Gen. Sir Charles Guthrie, Britain's chief of staff.Correspondents Ben Wedeman and Matthew Chance contributed to this report.
NATO fends off questions about civilian deaths
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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