ad info
   middle east

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards





World - Europe

U.N. wants 2 weeks before Kosovar refugees return

Ethnic Albanian refugees wind through the northern Albanian mountains toward the Kosovo border

Focus on
related videoRELATED VIDEO
Russia says it wants to send troops to Kosovo, but when CNN's Steve Harrigan pays a visit to a base outside Moscow, the militia doesn't even have gasoline (June 18)
Windows Media 28K 80K

CNN's Jim Clancy reports on the damage done to a 15th century Serb Orthodox monastery. (June 18)
Windows Media 28K 80K

Tour damage NATO caused in Kosovo, with CNN's Christiane Amanpour (June 18)
Windows Media 28K 80K

Even though NATO promised to protect them, Serbs are moving out of Kosovo. CNN's Richard Blystone reports. (June 18)

Windows Media 28K 80K

       Windows Media Real

       28 K 80 K
Agreement reached on Russian role in Kosovo force

Yugoslav forces meet second withdrawal deadline

KFOR enters Kosovo

NATO rolls into Kosovo
Crisis in Kosovo
Focus on Kosovo

June 18, 1999
Web posted at: 5:26 p.m. EDT (2126 GMT)

In this story:

Tens of thousands return each day

Macedonia buses refugees out

Serbs leave province in haste


GENEVA -- The United Nations plans to help Kosovo refugees return to their homes in two weeks, but thousands haven't been willing to wait, despite the risks of land mines, remaining Serb militants and water and food scarcities.

The U.N. refugee agency is not preventing the Kosovars from leaving camps in neighboring countries, and is even permitting them to take food, water and tents with them, said Soren Jessen-Petersen, assistant U.N. high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), on Friday.

Of the estimated 750,000 refugees, at least 50,000 have returned from neighboring Balkan states over the past three days. On Thursday alone, 14,500 departed Albania and 3,000 left Macedonia.

As ethnic Albanians who found sanctuary outside of Kosovo poured back into their home province, there were bottlenecks at border stations and traffic jams along mountain roads.

After touring Kosovo, a province of Serbia wracked by months of civil bloodshed and NATO bombs, Jessen-Petersen said there were "significantly fewer" displaced Kosovars in hiding than the 600,000 estimated by NATO during its airstrikes.

Tens of thousands return each day

Jessen-Petersen said he worried about the "tractor people," refugees who fled rural areas on tractors and now want to return.

"Those are the people that go straight to the villages, and that's where the mines are," he said, referring to explosives buried by Serb forces.

Officials of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping mission said Thursday that at least four returning refugees had died from mine blasts. The UNHCR has called in seven demining teams from Bosnia to begin demarcation of possible mine fields.

Jessen-Petersen predicted that despite U.N. entreaties, most refugee camps would be empty by the end of next week. Remaining refugees, many living in temporary shelters or with relatives, will be able to return by bus or airplane trips organized by UNHCR.

Macedonia buses refugees out

In Blace, Macedonia, more refugees streamed across the border, some in buses provided by the Macedonian government. For them, the desire to return home after weeks or months of exile in cramped shanty towns far outweighed the risks.

departing refugee
Kosovo refugees board buses provided by the Macedonian government  

"I'm very grateful for all the help I've had at this camp," said one woman. "The tents have kept out the rain, and the food has kept us from starving. But now it's the time for us to go home."

Refugee workers caution the refugees against hasty returns, but say they have no choice but to let them leave.

"They have family who are over in Kosovo who call them, and some are encouraging them to go," said Ed Joseph of Catholic Relief Services. "So it's quite understandable that people would want to go and get up and leave a hot, dusty, muddy airstrip and go home."

Despite the exodus, most refugees in Macedonia are taking the advice of NATO and the United Nations and have remained in camps near the Kosovo border.

Serbs leave province in haste

Jessen-Petersen said the UNHCR was worried about the flight of Serb inhabitants from Kosovo, and added there were many Serb residents who helped other ethnic groups during the war.

About 800 Serb civilians arrived in the Montenegrin border town of Rozaje Thursday. The UNHCR said 19,000 Serb civilians had left Kosovo since Yugoslavia signed a peace agreement with NATO on June 9.

The UNHCR will help Albania and Macedonia recover from the refugee crisis, he said.

"We owe it to those countries, to the people who opened their homes and their borders, not to turn our back on them," Jessen-Petersen said.

Correspondent Matthew Chance and Reuters contributed to this report.

KFOR asserts authority in Kosovo
June 18, 1999
Agreement reached on Russian participation in Kosovo
June 18, 1999
Kosovo refugees ignore dangers to return home
June 17, 1999
U.S., France won't rebuild Yugoslavia if Milosevic stays
June 17, 1999

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosovo - from

  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

Resettlement Agencies Helping Kosovars in U.S.:
  • Church World Service
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
  • Iowa Department of Human Services
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Immigration and Refugee Services of America
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
  • United States Catholic Conference

  • World Relief
  • Doctors without borders
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.