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World - Europe

U.N. refugees chief 'very, very worried' about Kosovars

Ethnic Albanian children peer from a military tent at a NATO-run refugee camp in Stenkovac, Macedonia

related videoRELATED VIDEO
CNN's Richard Blystone follows one family as it decides to leave a border camp for refuge abroad (April 8)
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InteractiveIMAGE GALLERY:
Burning flags and rock concerts:
Protesting the NATO strikes

Devastation of Kosovo capital

The Serbs and Kosovo
 ALSO
Russia presses on for diplomatic end to Kosovo crisis U.S. may increase attack helicopters in Yugoslavia

Effort to free U.S. soldiers may fall short

NATO denies causing 'widespread' civilian damage

Kosovar refugee wants to go back home

 MESSAGE BOARD
Crisis in Kosovo
 MAPS
NATO officials describe attacks from day one through day fifteen
 

Britain accuses Serbs of returning them by force

April 8, 1999
Web posted at: 6:25 p.m. EDT (2225 GMT)


In this story:

Border crossings deserted

Albanian refugees move south

Situation improves in Macedonia

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



LONDON (CNN) -- The director of the U.N.'s refugee program said Thursday she was "very, very worried" about the fate of thousands of Kosovo refugees. Earlier in the day, Britain accused Serb forces of rounding up thousands of displaced Kosovars at the Albania-Macedonia borders and forcing them to return to the embattled Serb province.

The ethnic Albanians from Kosovo were trying to cross into those countries to escape the fighting in Yugoslavia.

"They seem now to have started rounding up refugees queuing to leave Kosovo and returning them by force," said Clare Short, British Secretary of State for International Development, at a news conference in London.

"We do not know whether they have been driven back to their homes or elsewhere within Kosovo," she said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata also expressed concern.

"We don't know what has happened to them. I'm very, very worried," she told a news conference in Albania.

She said she did not have any doubt that reports of rapes and other atrocities allegedly committed by Serb forces were true. Ogata said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had denied the refugee reports.

Border crossings deserted

CNN correspondents who visited the Albania-Kosovo border Thursday said Serb forces could be seen laying what appeared to be mines just inside their territory at Morina, the main border crossing into Albania.

There were other reports of soldiers digging trenches and checking old bunkers in the area.

CNN Correspondent Mike Boettcher, who was at the Kosovo- Albania border, said thousands of Kosovars who had lined up on the Yugoslav side of the border, hoping to cross into Albania, were gone Thursday.

Boettcher said he was told that many vehicles belonging to ethnic Albanians were found abandoned, some of them burned, along the road leading to the border post.

According to Serbian media, the Kosovars returned to their homes amid assurances that it was safe to return.

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said Washington had "credible but not confirmed reports" that war crimes had been committed by Serb forces against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Rubin said the U.S. government would turn over its evidence to the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

kukes food
An International Red Cross volunteer hands out food  

Albanian refugees move south

Ogata said she was pleased that Albania had allowed in about 300,000 refugees.

The NATO-run refugee transit centers in northern Albania -- particularly in the main camp at Kukes -- were moving people south.

Authorities told CNN Correspondent Satinger Bindra in Kukes that they were trying to move thousands of refugees to Tirana, the capital.

There were about 100,000 refugees at Kukes, and aid officials were trying to improve their living conditions, particularly sanitation. Several children were sick with measles, and there were fears that other diseases could erupt.

However, Ogata admitted that there were bottlenecks in the processing of aid supplies being flown in. Tirana airport was overcrowded because of inadequate off-loading facilities and congested air space.

Situation improves in Macedonia

Britain said conditions had improved markedly for refugees in Macedonia who were moved from squalid camps to new NATO tent cities housing about 43,000 refugees.

But London said NATO officials were worried because some of the refugees were being sent out of the country.

"We remain concerned that refugees in Macedonia are being forced onto planes and buses. This is unacceptable. We understand Macedonian concerns and will provide support to Macedonia, provided it complies with international rights and norms in its treatment of refugees," Short said.

The Macedonian authorities rejected international criticism of the way it was handling the refugees. And a government statement said there were no refugees unaccounted for.


RELATED STORIES:
Britain accuses Serbs of preventing Kosovars' escapes
April 8, 1999
NATO strikes target Serb ground forces, complicate GI release efforts
April 8, 1999
Yugoslavian borders closed, refugees' fate 'alarming'
April 8, 1999
Blasts shake Belgrade in dawn of third week of airstrikes
April 7, 1999
NATO reports 'breakthrough' against Serb forces
April 7, 1999
NATO defies Yugoslav cease-fire with more bombing
April 7, 1999
NATO rejects cease-fire, resumes bombing Yugoslavia
April 6, 1999
NATO rejects Yugoslav unilateral cease-fire offer
April 6, 1999
Airstrikes hit home in a small Serbian town
April 6, 1999
Support for ground troops swells in Congress
April 4, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
  • Kosovo

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


Kosovo:
  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
  • Kosovo - from Albanian.com

Military:
  • 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

Relief:
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Unicef USA
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • World Vision
  • CARE: The Kosovo Crisis
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Disaster Relief from DisasterRelief.org
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page


Media:
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

Other:
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
  • Prayers for peace
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