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World - Europe

Flood of Serb refugees overwhelms Yugoslavia

Serbian woman
Although NATO is encouraging them to stay in Kosovo, many Serbs are fleeing their homes

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July 20, 1999
Web posted at: 9:54 a.m. EDT (1354 GMT)

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The flood of Serbs fleeing their homes in Kosovo is creating a critical situation in central Serbia, the U.N.'s refugee agency said Tuesday.

With Yugoslavia already staggering under the burden of more than half a million refugees from previous ethnic conflicts, the new influx is further taxing the region's resources.

"(The refugees') accommodation is completely unsuitable," said Vesna Petkovic of the UNHCR's Belgrade office. "They are put up mostly in schools without adequate plumbing or any other facilities."

Adding to the strain is the West's reluctance to help a country whose president -- Slobodan Milosevic -- has been indicted by an international tribunal for war crimes.

Yugoslavia's resources and infrastructure suffered a severe blow during NATO's 11-week bombing campaign, aimed at forcing an end to what it said was Yugoslavia's attempt to rid Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian population.

Many ethnic Albanians -- 90 percent of Kosovo's population -- fled the region, but returned as Yugoslav troops left and were replaced by NATO forces.

But fears of retaliation -- and actual acts of retribution -- have driven Serbs from their own homes and into parts of Yugoslavia ill-equipped to handle them.

"The most critical situation is in the towns of Kraljevo, Kragujevac and several others in the area which have accommodated the largest number of refugees," Petkovic said.

About 150,000 Serbs have come to the region in all: more than 18,000 to Kraljevo -- equal to a third of the town's population -- and more than 13,000 to Kragujevac.


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Tuesday that continued problems in Yugoslavia could force Serbs to flee the country altogether and create a refugee crisis elsewhere.

"It is in our own self-interest to try and do whatever we can do to create the minimum conditions that will make it possible for them to stay at home," he said in a speech to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna, Austria.

Annan called for humanitarian aid to all of Yugoslavia, and acknowledged that reconstruction of the region after the war will not be a quick prospect.

"I know that we will be on the ground at least for several years, but the reconstruction of Kosovo and the region, in my judgment, will take at least 10 years," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Kosovo peacekeepers find illegal jail, beaten prisoner
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Two U.S. soldiers reported killed in Kosovo accident
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Yugoslav army chief likens protesters to 'Western vassals'
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Serb opposition leader demands new government
July 17, 1999
Anti-Milosevic movement struggles with public apathy
July 16, 1999
Protesters call for Milosevic opposition to unite
July 15, 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

  • UNICEF: Kosovo
  • 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
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