Refugees allege abuse by Serb police
May 18, 1999
BLACE, Macedonia (CNN) -- The number of Kosovo refugees evacuated from Macedonia to third countries topped the 50,000 mark Tuesday, when 1,400 ethnic Albanians left for Turkey and Canada.
At the same time, new refugees were allowed to enter Macedonia at the Blace border crossing. More than 1,000 people who were not allowed off a train from Kosovo on Monday tried again and were successful.
One refugee said that her fellow passengers were kept on the train and sent back to Kurasevac, where all her money was taken. The group was allowed back on the train Tuesday, she said.
U.N. officials report that some refugees said they had been "roughed up" by Serb police.
"Some people were beaten up on the train, and some people were beaten up when they got off the train," said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Astrud Van Ganderinstart.
Aid workers were alarmed at the condition of the refugees arriving Tuesday -- and at reports that food was nearly impossible to find in the embattled province.
"It would appear that the reserves are running out," said Heather Hill of the World Food Program. "Most of the people said they were living on reserves, and that was getting down to the last three or four days."
After several hours, the largest group to arrive at the border in nearly two weeks was put on buses and driven to Macedonia's refugee camps.
Those camps are no longer overcrowded -- there is room for 17,000 more refugees, according to relief officials.
In Albania, which has taken in the largest number of refugees, British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised the refugees that they would soon return to their homes.
"We, the countries of NATO, have come together in this mission to make sure that we bring justice and hope to these people here," Blair said. "they are our cause and we will not let them down."
Blair spent nearly an hour talking with displaced families in the Elbasan camp in central Albania. It was the first visit by a British prime minister to Albania, Europe's poorest country.
Following his visit, Blair and his Albanian counterpart, Pandeli Majko, who also toured the camp, held talks in Tirana.
Correspondent Tom Mintier contributed to this report.
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