Kosovar men, feared victims of massacres, appear at border
April 23, 1999
The exodus from Kosovo has been composed mostly of women, children and old men since Yugoslav troops accelerated what NATO calls a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in the Serbian province. The absent males raised fears that men ranging in age from their teens to their 60s were being killed.
But CNN's Ben Wedeman said several men came over the Yugoslav frontier Friday. The men said they were rounded up by Serb authorities, taken somewhere to work, then kicked out near the border crossing.
They join more than 600,000 other Kosovars who have fled the province in the past month. The bulk of the refugees have sought sanctuary in Albania and Macedonia. Some of those arriving in Albania have walked more than 100 miles (160 km) to get out of Kosovo, crossing the border on bloody feet.
Conditions remain difficult in the muddy refugee camps in those countries, but refugees are at least receiving basic care, said Clare Short, Britain's overseas development secretary.
Meanwhile, relief agencies and NATO officials began plans to return hundreds of thousands of refugees to Kosovo at the conflict's end.
So far, NATO troops have delivered 11,000 tons of humanitarian aid, fed and sheltered nearly 85,000 refugees and supplied 716 tons of medicine, said Vice Adm. Ian Garnett, Britain's chief of joint operations.
"The humanitarian aid delivered was sufficient to feed 400,000 people for 16 days; provide temporary shelter, bedding and basic facilities for 100,000 refugees; and to meet the basic medical needs of up to 300,000," Garnett said.
Short, meanwhile, said NATO is trying to prepare the Kosovars to return home when the conflict with Yugoslavia ends.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population made up 90 percent of the province before the Yugoslav crackdown. Short said efforts would focus on how to rebuild Kosovar society after the war.
"It's very important that we get the right civil structure within Kosovo. Interim arrangements will be necessary, and we should learn from Bosnia the importance of democratic structure at the right time," she said.
But the refugees have put severe strains on both Albania and Macedonia. Albanian police cracked down on a makeshift camp near Kukes, sending thousands toward Albania's capital Tirana and other cities.
In Macedonia, where 130,000 refugees have already sought shelter, new arrivals are exhausted and increasingly unwelcome.
But they come across the border anyway -- pushed across, they say, by Serb border guards threatening to kill them.
At Stankovic, the biggest of Macedonia's burgeoning refugee camps, aid workers were frantically trying to free up space. Refugees are being packed off to distant camps in Turkey to make room for new arrivals.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has appealed to member states for another $625 million in relief operations, UNHCR officials said Friday. That amount should allow the agency to cover the needs of 950,000 refugees from April to June.
U.N. spokeswoman Therese Gastaut said relief agencies have so far received $180 million in donations to cover the Kosovo relief operation.
CNN INDEPTH SPECIAL SECTION:
NATO strike on Serbian TV prompts hard questions
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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