Hillary Clinton hears Kosovars' tales of tears
May 14, 1999
SKOPJE, Macedonia (CNN) -- The wife of U.S. President Bill Clinton toured the refugee camps of Macedonia on Friday, listening to uprooted Kosovars' tales of a forced exodus from the Serbian province where they once lived.
Hillary Rodham Clinton called the refugees' stories "extremely disturbing," saying they brought up images that hadn't been seen in Europe since World War II.
"You feel almost like you're intruding, but they want to tell you what it felt like when they lost their children," Mrs. Clinton said.
NATO accuses the Yugoslav army and Serb special police of conducting a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Kosovo's Albanian population.
Mrs. Clinton said the stories echoed images of the Nazi era, as depicted by films like "Schindler's List" or "Sophie's Choice."
"Think about what that means -- to be driving people from their homes, separating them from their families, loading them on trains," she said.
But she said NATO's eight-week-old air war against Yugoslavia was meant "to enable these people to have a life and end this century on a note of commitment to human rights in Europe."
Mrs. Clinton toured the refugee camps at Stenkovec, where about 20,000 ethnic Albanians have huddled since being pushed out of Kosovo. Friday, for the first time in more than a week, Macedonian officials allowed refugees to cross the border without papers, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.
Macedonia had closed its borders last week, hoping to prompt third countries to take in more refugees. The UNHCR said it evacuated fewer than 2,000 people from the region on Thursday, but it was trying to find a way to speed up the departures.
The UNHCR reported a sharp reduction in the number of refugees leaving Kosovo, with only one person crossing at the Morina, Albania, border post. But nearly 750,000 remained in the region, including 431,000 in Albania; 233,000 in Macedonia; and 64,000 in Montenegro.
In Albania, meanwhile, poor organization was hampering efforts by aid groups, NATO and the Albanian government to move Kosovo refugees away from the overcrowded border region, according to aid officials there.
The UNHCR is supposed to coordinate relief for the Kosovars. But in reality, no one appears to be in charge, and each group seems to operate independently, aid workers say.
The confusion is bewildering to refugees and is making many hesitant to leave the area.
"There needs to be a lot more clear information for the refugees," said Samantha Bolton, spokeswoman for the aid group Doctors Without Borders. "The refugees don't really know where they are going if they leave Kukes, and that's one reason that they are reluctant to move."
The 100,000 refugees in Kukes, Albania, represent the largest concentration in any one area.
The UNHCR has launched a tent-to-tent information campaign to try to persuade refugees to leave the camps in Kukes for safer, less congested regions farther south.
"The information campaign has met with underwhelmingly modest success," UNHCR spokesman Ray Wilkinson said.
Most refugees want to stay in Kukes, clinging to the hope that NATO troops will soon be inside the Serbian province to guarantee their safety from the Yugoslav security forces. NATO says tens of thousands more refugees remained marooned on hillsides and in the valleys and forests of Kosovo.
Yugoslav officials say the refugees are fleeing from NATO bombs, not from any harassment by Yugoslav armed forces.
But at a NATO news conference on Friday in Brussels, Belgium, alliance spokesman Jamie Shea displayed aerial photographs from burned houses and towns inside Kosovo.
"These houses have clearly been set on fire," he said. "This is arson. It's clearly not bombing."
Shea said new evidence of mass graves has been found as well. And John Spellar, Britain's undersecretary of defense, said Yugoslav troops in Kosovo were making Kosovars stand under bridges during NATO bombing raids -- then claiming them as civilian casualties after the strikes.
"God knows what we're going to find when Kosovo is open again and the international war crimes tribunal is allowed in," Shea said.
NATO dismisses Serb pullout, knocks out electricity
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.