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World - Europe

Camps fill as refugees seek shelter

April 19, 1999
Web posted at: 4:53 a.m. EDT (0853 GMT)

In this story:

In Macedonia, more hardship

Airlifts ease crowding

Yugoslav diplomat blames American bombs


KUKES, Albania (CNN) -- Many ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo are arriving at refugee camps in Albania in alarming condition, international aid workers report.

Some have spent days hiding from Serb forces in forests, then walking for days through rain and cold to cross the Yugoslavian border.

On arrival at one Italian-run camp in Albania, many refugees encounter disheartening conditions. Two days of rain have turned it to a field of mud.

The camp has been filled to capacity, as are other camps in the border area. Italian officials said they have only enough food to feed the refugees for two to three days.

And conditions are expected to worsen. Officials said as many as 100,000 more refugees could arrive at the Yugoslav-Albanian border within days.

One woman refugee at the Italian-run camp was suffering from amnesia, brought on, doctors said, by shock. She arrived without identity papers. She did not know her own name. Nor did she recognize her two-day-old baby son, or understand that the baby needed to eat.

The death early Sunday of five Kosovo Albanians, including three children, after their car hit a land mine just 20 meters (65 feet) from the Albanian border, has not deterred the steady flow of refugees, seeking safety on the other side of the Yugoslav border.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians massed at the border in the chilly rain.

More than 20,000 Kosovo refugees entered Albania Saturday, said NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, and "as many as 50,000 are immediately behind them."

In Macedonia, more hardship

In Macedonia, refugees' stories mirrored those of their counterparts arriving in Albania.

A number of women and their children, exhausted and apparently in shock, said they fled their homes for Macedonian soil, and made a 20-hour journey on foot to escape Yugoslav armed forces in Kosovo.

One woman said the serbs threw grenades at families' houses and ordered them to leave. "We haven't brought anything but our children with us. We were simply given no time. It is unspeakable what the Serbs have done to us."

Near a village school, some Kosovars found refuge. Men from an uprooted community rested after a dangerous trek across the mountains of Kosovo.

A villager said that although residents have little space, they were trying to help the newcomers.

"We were wet and cold, a refugee says, but the Macedonian guards pushed us back three times, making us sit in a muddy field. It was only the ethnic Albanian people from this village who came to help us."

Airlifts ease crowding

NATO pilots made more than 100 flights into Albania and Macedonia Sunday to deliver relief supplies to Kosovo refugee camps in those countries, said Brig. Gen. Giuseppe Marani, NATO's military spokesman.

Airlifts are beginning to take refugees away from the border camps, but not nearly as quickly as they arrive.

Albanian officials were trying to convert schools and other public buildings into additional space for the tide of refugees.

Plans have been drawn up to double the capacity of the camp in Stenkovec, Macedonia, from 30,000 to 60,000, but government approval for the expansion has not yet come.

Yugoslav diplomat blames American bombs

NATO pilots reported heavy smoke over Kosovo, and allied military officials said hundreds of towns and villages have been destroyed there. The refugees bring with them accounts of atrocities committed by Yugoslav troops and Serb special police in Kosovo, which was once 90 percent ethnic Albanian.

Radmila Milentijevic, a former Serbian information minister, blamed the United States and NATO.

"The level of violence we are witnessing now is because of American bombs," Milentijevic said. "American bombs have turned Yugoslavia into hell."

But Yugoslavia's top diplomat said Sunday that NATO bombing, not Yugoslav atrocities, was responsible for the refugees' plight.

"This is a tragedy of the people which has been provoked by the aggression," Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said. "It is absurd to blame Yugoslavia, Yugoslav forces, for this humanitarian catastrophe when everyone knows there was no humanitarian catastrophe before the 24th of March."

Correspondents Ben Wedeman, Matthew Chance and Richard Blystone contributed to this report.

Mine blast raises new fears for refugees
April 18, 1999
Thousands of refugees continue weary exodus from Kosovo
April 17, 1999
Macedonia fears it could become KLA staging ground
April 16, 1999
New wave of refugees sweeps out of Yugoslavia
April 16, 1999
Relief group uses art to help refugee children
April 14, 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
  • 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

  • Kosovar doctor helps refugees one at a time
  • Mercy International USA
  • Donations for Kosovo Refugees
  • 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
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page

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

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