Refugee flow into Macedonia slows; Albania may take 1 million
May 9, 1999
MORINA, ALBANIA (CNN) -- The Albanian government has agreed to take as many as 1 million refugees from Kosovo, according to special envoy Dennis McNamara of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In high level meetings, Albanian officials said they would take "as many refugees as necessary, as many as 1 million people if that is what it takes," McNamara said.
The development came as Macedonia, which already has absorbed thousands of refugees, with many now housed in camps as large as cities, said it would close its borders to new arrivals until some of those already in Macedonia have moved out to new locations.
CNN's Tom Mintier said on Sunday that the border crossing at Blace, Macedonia, formerly overflowing with refugees, was now nearly deserted.
Some refugees who could not obtain other transportation paid exorbitant taxi rates to bring their families to the border crossing. One family spent the equivalent of $7,000.
The UNHCR said only a "handful" of refugees arrived in Macedonia on Saturday, but on Friday, 1,914 arrived.
European Union Humanitarian Chief Emma Bonino traveled to Macedonia on Saturday after the Macedonian government threatened to close its border with Kosovo. She said closing the border was "simply not acceptable."
Bonino met with a family of refugees in the Macedonian camp of Cegrane, where an estimated 31,000 refugees are staying.
In Albania: 5000 fresh arrivals
In Kukes, Albania more than 5,000 refugees arrived on Saturday -- on foot, in wheelbarrows, carrying bundles and revealing tales of hardship.
CNN's Nic Robertson reported Sunday that one refugee told him that after the food ran out, he fed his family with flowers and plants.
The steady influx of refugees from Kosovo into Albania continued Saturday, with about 500 people arriving every hour, officials said.
Officials with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe told CNN they have spotted a line of refugees more than six miles long from their vantage point on Albania's border with Kosovo.
Newly arrived refugees from Pec appeared very emotional and malnourished as they crossed the border, observers said. The UNHCR said the refugees have reported incidents of Serb attacks and mass killings in Pec.
Correspondents Tom Mintier and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.
Annan defends U.N. refugee aid, says agency 'overwhelmed'
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