With camps at capacity, more refugees expected
Situation 'extremely depressing'
April 20, 1999
STENKOVEC, Macedonia (CNN) -- Relief workers said Tuesday that the flow of ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo had slowed tremendously, but they were preparing for the possibility of more large waves of refugees.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 refugees had crossed into Macedonia since Monday, officials said, and 25,000 have arrived in the last two weeks.
Ron Redmond of the United Nation's refugee organization UNHCR said that the agency had received reports of a new column of ethnic Albanians heading south from the area of Pristina, Kosovo's capital.
"But there is no way for us to really verify this information," Redmond said.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said Tuesday that Serb security forces were conducting what he called a "safari operation" against ethnic Albanians, first chasing them from their homes, pushing them south toward the border and then turning them around again before they can cross.
"It's extremely depressing," Shea said, "that human beings are being used as pawns in this macabre and Machiavellian chess game."
Macedonia agrees to another camp
With refugee camps in Macedonia and Albania already filled to capacity, relief workers worried that significant numbers of new refugees could severely affect their aid efforts.
Redmond said that Macedonia had agreed to build a new camp, which would house up to 20,000 additional refugees. Macedonia had originally balked at the idea, fearing more ethnic Albanians would enflame tensions between the former Yugoslav republic's pro-Serb majority and its Albanian minority.
"We are extremely relieved," Redmond said. "It gives us a bit of light at the end of the tunnel and we are scrambling now to work with that."
The new camp, at Cegrane near Tetovo in the northwest part of Macedonia, will be that country's seventh refugee camp. The United Nations has also asked Macedonia to consider establishing three additional camps, each able to house 10,000 refugees.
Shea said Tuesday that Albania had also agreed to more refugee facilities.
The new camps, officials said, are not meant to ease the overflow from existing camps, but rather to house new refugees who make their way across the border.
More than 30,000 refugees have been airlifted or bused to third countries from Macedonia. On Tuesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees renewed an appeal for countries outside the Balkans to accept Kosovo refugees on a temporary basis
U.N. asks for more room in other countries
"We need additional support, and we need it now," Sadako Ogata said in a statement. "We will continue to lead this operation, but we urgently need more contributions of the kind that only military and civil protection units can provide."
Julia Taft, the U.S. undersecretary of state handling refugee matters, told CNN that UNHCR officials had hoped that the Kosovo refugees could be kept in the region, but the numbers were just too great.
"This is to reduce the congestion and particularly the impact on Macedonia," Taft said. "So many more countries are coming forward and they will be moved in the next few days."
She told CNN that aid workers had been working with international telecommunications companies to implement a tracing system to help refugees get documents and reunite families.
Correspondent Matthew Chance and Reuters contributed to this report.
NATO launches fresh round of raids, Serbs say
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