More refugees pour into Albania, Macedonia
Relief group claims evidence of atrocities
April 30, 1999
TIRANA, Albania (CNN) -- Relief workers and NATO troops struggled to provide space for more refugees from Kosovo on Friday as U.N. officials said they had clear evidence of a massacre in the Serbian province.
More than 8,000 refugees crossed into Albania from Kosovo on Friday, mostly from the Prizren area. They have told aid workers that Prizren is full of soldiers conducting house-to- house searches.
The refugees are increasingly middle-class professionals -- doctors, lawyers and educators, some of them arriving in business suits.
British Lt. Gen. John Reith, commander of the NATO force in Albania, said he wanted to see all refugees moved from the northern border town of Kukes to shelter deeper inside the country. The area has served as a base for ethnic Albanian rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and Yugoslav artillery crews have been firing across the border in recent weeks.
"If they stay they face a real risk," he said.
Reith said the roughly 370,00 Kosovo refugees Albania has accommodated is, proportionately, "the equivalent of the island of Ireland being absorbed into mainland of Britain."
As many as 100,000 refugees are now living in refugee camps in Albania, while another 100,000 are around Kukes, 30 kilometers (20 miles) inside the border. Most are hoping to go home soon, and have turned aside pleas to move to safer locations inside the country.
Fears of disease in Macedonia
In Macedonia, another 6,000 refugees packed into refugee camps like the one at Cegrane, which NATO troops are trying to expand to properly house thousands of newly arrived Kosovars. The camp, which was designed to hold about 5,000 people, now holds about 8,000.
Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura made a personal visit to the refugee camp at Cegrane on Friday. Japan has offered $30 million to Macedonia and Albania to help those nations deal with the refugees.
"My impression is that it is much more miserable here than the camps I've visited in Jordan, the Palestinian camps," he said.
About 1,155 refugees left Cegrane Friday, but Macedonia has urged Western governments to take Kosovars in more quickly. So has the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which again called on European countries to fulfill their pledges to temporarily house the displaced.
"We are happy that the governments have offered us a total of 85,000 places for refugees from Macedonia," said Kris Janowski, a UNHCR spokesman. "The bottleneck, however, is the number of people who are actually being flown out. More people need to be flown out of Macedonia."
And more space is still needed to house refugees within Macedonia, he said.
"Otherwise, the people will be living on top of each other, under extreme weather conditions, which will eventually lead to disease and other problems." Janowski said.
U.N. claims evidence of mass killing
U.N. aid workers, meanwhile, said fleeing Kosovars have provided clear evidence that Serb forces had massacred a large group of male refugees in the southwestern Kosovo village of Meja earlier this week.
"I think it is beyond doubt," UNHCR spokeswoman Lyndall Sachs told the British Broadcasting Corporation. "We have had successive waves of refugees who have passed through that area, coming from different parts of southwestern Kosovo, and they all have spoken about bodies lying in ditches and in fields."
NATO officials said Friday a new report by the aid group Doctors Without Borders documented Serb atrocities in Kosovo as well.
"It's probably the most systematic analysis of what has been happening to the people inside Kosovo," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said.
The report indicates the expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo "was part of a prearranged plan," he said. "The pattern of intimidation, of looting of homes, of being forced to leave at the point of a gun is the reason why they had to leave."
Justice Louise Arbour, the head of the U.N. war crimes tribunal for Yugoslavia, said her investigators will need "unprecedented assistance" to investigate the volume of allegations emerging from a reported offensive by Yugoslav army troops and special police in Kosovo.
Correspondents Tom Mintier, Jane Arraf and Reuters contributed to this report.
NATO strikes 'brains' of Belgrade; Britain sends more planes
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