Condition of Kosovar refugees deteriorating
Ethnic Albanians coming to U.S. may be processed at Fort Dix, New Jersey
April 24, 1999
STENKOVEC, Macedonia (CNN) -- More than 2,220 ethnic Albanian refugees crossed the border into Macedonia on Saturday, joining a human exodus from Kosovo that now numbers more than 600,000 since NATO airstrikes began.
But relief officials say many of the people coming across the borders now are in much worse shape than those who crossed in the early days of the refugee crisis.
"What we see generally is the situation people are arriving in is vastly deteriorating," said Kaz DeJong, a clinical psychologist with the relief group Doctors Without Borders. "The longer this lasts, the worse it will be getting."
At the Stenkovec camp in Macedonia, officials are bracing for 30,000 to 50,000 more refugees.
"I expect them not to be in good condition, and especially the mental situation for them -- the hopelessness," said Dr. Thei Haumann, of Doctors Without Borders.
The United States has agreed to take in as many as 20,000 of the refugees, giving priority to those with relatives living in America. They may be processed at the U.S. Army's regional reserve training center at Fort Dix, New Jersey, base spokeswoman Carolee Nisbet said.
Fort Dix is considered a logical choice for processing and short-term housing of the refugees because of its proximity to McGuire Air Force Base and to the New York metropolitan area, which is home to several hundred thousand ethnic Albanians.
Nisbet said U.S. officials are considering up to nine sites for processing the refugees. A decision on where the refugees will be initially placed could come early next week, she said.
Radio broadcasts aimed at refugees begin
To counter the sense of isolation and dislocation felt by the displaced Kosovars, relief agencies have organized radio broadcasts featuring Albanian reporters and information tailored toward the refugees. The broadcasts began Saturday.
Relief workers estimate that about 25 percent of the refugees have radios, which have become a thin lifeline for those who have lost nearly everything else.
The U.N. has also started a newsletter aimed at teens and children, who make about half of the more than 350,000 refugees in Albania. It will be written by the teen-agers themselves.
"It is also very healing for the community when teen-agers, when children, are given a space to speak and tell the story from their perspective," said Robert Cohen of UNICEF. "There is no child who wants war."
NATO unleashes missile assault across Yugoslavia
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