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20,000 Kosovo refugees to be allowed into U.S.

White House abandons plans to use naval base in Cuba

April 21, 1999
Web posted at: 7:16 p.m. EDT (2316 GMT)

From White House Correspondent John King

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Clinton administration has decided to allow up to 20,000 ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo to come to the United States -- opening up the possibility that they could eventually apply for political asylum.

The decision represents a major policy shift. Until now, the administration was willing only to allow refugees to be housed at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. Because the base is not considered U.S. soil, refugees would not have had the right to apply for asylum.

Vice President Al Gore, who announced the decision in a speech at Ellis Island in New York, said those refugees "with close family ties in America and those who are vulnerable" will be allowed to enter the United States.

"We will have them here until they are able to return home safely," Gore said.

Administration sources tell CNN that officials from the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Health and Human Services will travel to the Balkan region to screen refugees. Preference will be given to those with relatives already in the United States or "special and difficult circumstances."

Officials say the goal of the U.S. policy is still for refugees to return home when the conflict in Yugoslavia ends. But they acknowledge that many of the Kosovars might choose to apply for asylum, which would allow them to remain in the United States.

The administration had faced considerable criticism for its plans to house refugees at Guantanamo Bay, a remote U.S.-controlled outpost at the end of the communist-controlled island of Cuba.

"Our initial plan was drawn up as an emergency reaction. With time to reflect, we think this is more humane," said a senior administration official.

NATO at 50

White House: U.S. open to review of use of ground troops
April 21, 1999
UNHCR says relief agencies have 'breathing space'
April 21, 1999
U.S. 'tank-killer' helicopters arrive in Albania
April 21, 1999
Ground troops option to be reviewed by NATO leaders
April 21, 1999
U.S. to push for Yugoslavia oil embargo
April 20, 1999
Active duty ahead for thousands of reservists
April 16, 1999

Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
  • Kosovo

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

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
  • Kosovo - from

  • F-117s arrive at Aviano to support possible NATO operations
  • 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

  • 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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