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World - Europe

Kosovo exodus reminiscent of WWII

An exhausted refugee weeps, top; bottom, a train departs from Pristina carrying ethnic Albanians to the Macedonian border

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April 1, 1999
Web posted at: 1:22 p.m. EST (1822 GMT)

GENEVA (CNN) -- Thousands more ethnic Albanian refugees streamed out of Kosovo on Thursday as U.N. aid officials said the scene reminded them of the dark days of human suffering during World War II.

About 10,000 refugees crossed into Albania on Thursday, and the line of the displaced people seeking to cross was said to stretch for several miles (kilometers) from the border back into Kosovo.

More refugee trains arrived Thursday in Macedonia, with ethnic Albanians repeating the same story: that they were rounded up en masse by Serb police in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, and forced on trains transporting them out of the country.

"Witnesses described Pristina as being a ghost town now. Soldiers told the departing civilians they were getting 'a free ride to Macedonia' as a 'gift from the government' in exchange for the houses and cars," according to a statement on the UNHCR Web site.

Some refugees said they were bused toward the borders of neighboring countries, then told to walk the rest of the way.

In Morina, Albania, a young man, helping his elderly grandmother come across the border from Kosovo, told CNN they had been bused, then taken off the bus and forced to walk more than six hours.

The UNHCR said more than 100,000 of those who have fled Kosovo have crossed into Albania, another 31,000 have gone to Macedonia, and 30,000 have fled to Montenegro.

Kris Janowski, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Thursday that more than 160,000 ethnic Albanians had crossed into Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro in the past nine days, and that the waves of refugees kept coming.

"UNHCR staff said the scene reminded them at times of the darkest days at the end of World War II, with refugees streaming in all directions," Janowski said.

"Everyone interviewed told similar stories of masked men in uniforms knocking on doors and telling people to leave or be killed," he said.

A jet, loaned to the United Nations by the British government, arrived Thursday in the Albanian capital, Tirana, with emergency aid supplies for the refugees.

Marie Heuze, spokeswoman for the U.N. Children's Fund, said the plane carried emergency health kits for 40,000 people as well as 2,000 children's blankets, oral rehydration salts, water purification tablets and syringes.

Other aid arriving Thursday was flown in from France and Spain, including tons of medicine, baby milk and food.

Emma Bonino, the humanitarian affairs commissioner of the European Union, toured the crisis region and Thursday called for European coordination and cooperation in coping with the crisis.

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Kosovo exodus reaches 130,000 in one week
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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
  • 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

  • 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

  • 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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