UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 45

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 22 Jul 1998
UNHCR Belgrade, Wednesday 22 July 1998, 5:00 pm
This report has been compiled by UNHCR with inputs from UN Agencies and other humanitarian organizations in FRY, FYROM and Albania

As disturbing reports of escalating armed clashes continue to flow in from Kosovo, diplomatic efforts in search for a peaceful settlement of the crisis are also intensified. US Ambassador to Skopje, Christopher Hill is reportedly shuttling between Belgrade and Pristina this week, while US Ambassador Robert Gelbard has met recently with Serbian Opposition Leaders in Hague. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel warned today that "danger is growing that the conflict will spiral out of control," and called on the international community to further intensify its involvement. Yesterday, experts of the Contact Group met in London to discuss elements of the future status of Serbia's province of Kosovo . NATO's Secretary-General is scheduled to visit the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia this week, while the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed extension of the UNPREDEP mandate on Tuesday. Meanwhile, humanitarian agencies continue to assist victims of the conflict in Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania.

1. KOSOVO

1.1 UNHCR Visits Orahovac. On 21 July, UNHCR Pristina visited Orahovac, to assess the situation of Serb refugees from Croatia who are accommodated in the town. The team managed to enter from the Djakovica side, after spending several hours waiting for clearance at the police checkpoint at the entrance of the town. At the time of the visit, the town was apparently in the control of the police, but shooting and lobbing of grenades was still going on. The town appeared largely deserted, except of a large presence of the police.

The UNHCR team met with 43 refugees in a collective centre. Over half of them were elderly and in poor health. They were very frightened and had no food nor water. The last meal they had eaten was on Friday 19 July. On 22 July, UNHCR brought a bus into Orahovac in an attempt to relocate these refugees until a better solution was found. 21 persons had left Orahovac in the bus seeking to reach Pristina. They had not, however, reached there at the time of writing this report.

1.2 Hundreds of Displaced Arrive in Malisevo. Several international aid agencies, including UNICEF, which have visited Malisevo over the last couple of days report that the town was crowded with hundreds of displaced persons from Orahovac, including several wounded, some seriously. As the violence in Orahovac had apparently started from the south, the displaced had fled northwards. While there may be some displaced in Prizren to the south of Orahovac, it seems evident that the majority were in Malisevo. Many wounded were continued to be seen at the local hospital.

1.3 OSCE Warns of Potential Escalation of Humanitarian Disaster. "Anticipating winter and supposing that armed hostilities and the use of violence might not end, we see a great risk of major problems of the humanitarian kind" warned the Head of Delegation of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Ambassador Hans-Jorg Eiff, during a press briefing held today in Belgrade. The briefing was held at the end of a seven-day OSCE fact-finding mission in Yugoslavia. The Ambassador also called for a very speedy cessation of armed hostilities, and stressed that this had to be given the foremost priority.

1.4 ICRC Assistance Reaches Junik. On Friday 17 July, ICRC was able to bring relief assistance to Junik, where Kosovo Albanian and Serb civilians have been cut off since the fighting broke out in the area in late May 1998. Three trucks of relief aid was delivered to 1,200 ethnic Albanians in the Junik village and some 350 ethnic Serb civilians in the Junik settlement. The ICRC will continue to monitor and cater for the humanitarian needs in areas affected by fighting and insecurity. Of utmost concern at the moment is the situation of those people who have found themselves in a vulnerable position after the outbreak of hostilities in Orahovac.

Delegates of the ICRC are also continuing their effort to gain access to all those people who have been arrested, abducted, or have lost contact with their family due to fighting and insecurity. The ICRC in Kosovo has been providing medical structures treating wounded people with surgical material in accordance with their needs and capacity.

1.5 IDP Beneficiary Caseload to be Discussed. The Food Aid Coordination Meeting will be held on 22 July to discuss the IDP beneficiary caseload, including pipelines and ration scales. The meeting will be hosted by WFP, which continues to play a lead role in food aid coordination.

2. MONTENEGRO

2.1 New Arrivals Continue at a Decreased Pace. UNHCR Podgorica reports that the police at the check points reported a decrease in the number of IDPs recently entering Montenegro compared to the previous weeks. However, the daily influx remains around 200. The new arrivals are still coming from the Pec area, with 70% of them being ethnic Albanians. Most of the others are Montenegrin, Serbs, and Muslims. Only 10 Romas arrived in the last few days. The total new influx between 25 April and 22 July as reported by the Ministry of Interior is 21,663, in addition to some 2,500 assumed to be displaced between March and April. Montenegrin Red Cross has a current caseload of 21,929.

2.2 Pressure Increases on Local Communities. The municipalities of Rozaje, Plav and Ulincj is clearly under pressure as the number of IDPs arise. The following is a breakdown of the number of IDPs in the above municipalities:

Location
Local population
IDPs
Rozaje
23,000
3,400
Plav
19,000
5,400
Ulcinj
24,000
6,650

2.3 WFP Pre-positions More Food in Bar. In order to increase readiness for timely response and to reduce expected financial costs, WFP, on 14 July, has pre-positioned 360 MT of mixed commodities in the port of Bar from contingency stocks previously held in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. The food is pre-positioned for potential distribution to those in Kosovo and within Montenegro.

Separately, distribution of 145 MT of mixed commodities to IDPs in Montenegro will begin next week, using previous stock in the area. In the end of July, WFP will also transport 16.5 MT of High Protein Biscuits to Podgorica for distribution in Montenegro. These biscuits are intended as supplementary food for 5,500 children under seven years of age, who are affected by the Kosovo conflict.

2.4 UNICEF Explores Opportunities for Education. Last week, UNICEF confirmed its interest in providing education material. It has also started to investigate with the Ministry of Education which premises are available for IDPs. In Plav, three schools are used only in the morning hours, and it was suggested that shifts could be organised to allow IDP classes to be held in the afternoon.

(Correction to Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo No. 44: The shortage in the food pipeline noted in Update 44 referred to food intended for the refugee caseload from the 1991-95 war as opposed to those intended for refugees/IDPs of the current crisis in Kosovo.)

3. NORTHERN ALBANIA

3.1 Security Concern Continues. As the fighting in Kosovo continues, the security situation in northern Albania could deteriorate, as the strategic significance of the area could increase. As reported in the press, the presence of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) fighters and arms smugglers are openly seen in the border area of Tropoje District, and UCK members in uniform have become increasingly common. As at 16 July, trucks and tractors loaded with boxes of weapons and ammunition destined for Kosovo were also seen on the roads on a daily basis.

3.2 Security of Refugees and Humanitarian Workers a Concern. Of the 8,000 to 10,000 Kosovar refugees accommodated in the Tropoje District, approximately 3,000 are currently hosted with local families in the commune of Tropoje, as close as three kilometres from the Kosovo-Albania border.

The general atmosphere in Tropoje commune is reportedly very tense. Humanitarian personnel in the area have been held up and robbed by masked men with Kalashnikovs. As a result, several humanitarian agencies, including UNHCR, have decided to not to travel to the town of Tropoje for a while.

3.3 Refugees Encouraged to Move Away From the Border. The Albanian Office for Refugees has decided to start advising refugees to move to other safe areas in Kukes or coastal towns. In addition, the same Office and UNHCR are conducting a joint survey of suitable new sites in safe areas to accommodate the refugees from Kosovo.

3.4 Food Aid Being Evaluated. WFP with UNHCR and IFRC are evaluating the July distribution of mixed commodities in Tropoje which was completed on 20 July. The assessment is expected to identify whether all targeted beneficiaries had received food aid. The food was targeted for up to 7,500 refugees.

4. FYR of MACEDONIA

4.1 UN Security Council Decides to Extend and Strengthen UNPREDEP. The United Nations Security Council yesterday voted unanimously to increase the number of peacekeeping troops, military observers and civilian police by up to 300, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Council also agreed to extend the operation until 28 February 1999.

In the "Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (S/1998/644)" issued on 14 July, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had noted that "recent developments in Kosovo have highlighted the danger of renewed violence in the area and the serious repercussions such violence could have upon the external and internal security" of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

4.2 Three Explosions in Macedonia. According to media reports, three explosions shook FYROM overnight on 21 July. Two of these explosions occurred on the rail line between Kumanovo and Tabanovce near the Yugoslav border, and the third blast happened in downtown Skopje near several foreign diplomatic and cultural missions. The cause of the explosions was being investigated. It is not known if these explosions were related to the situation in Kosovo.

4.3 "Relative" Calm Remains in FYROM. Despite the fighting in Kosovo, the situation in FYROM is reported to be "relatively" calm, according to UNHCR Skopje. Border crossings is also calm and quiet according to monitoring reports from UNPREDEP, OSCE and UNHCR.

4.4 "Guests" Not Refugees. A local paper in FYROM, Vecer reported on 20 July that a humanitarian NGO, "Young Moon" had announced that their organisation had registered 438 refugees from Kosovo. The organisation has reportedly requested the Government to recognize the status of these refugees, saying that they are not "guests" as some authorities have been claiming.

UNHCR Skopje reports that the Government acknowledges the presence of so-called "guests" from Kosovo entering legally in to the country. The official position is that they are not refugees but only "guests". These guests are issued with a stay permit for one to three months. They are accommodated in host families and have never filed an application for asylum.

For some of these people, after three months of stay, their resources and those of the host family are exhausted. This is the reason why some persons started to ask for assistance but still without asking for asylum. An Albanian NGO, El Hilal, has started a high profile mediatic food distribution to some 320 persons and claimed that about 1,000 Kosovars are in country.

4.5 WFP Undertakes Contingency Action. WFP will pre-position 145 MT of mixed commodities in Skopje. The food is expected to arrive shortly. WFP is currently assessing warehouse capacity and collecting primary data related to developments in FYR of Macedonia.

For information, please contact:

Kaoruko Seki
UNHCR Belgrade
Tel: (381)11-344-2091
Fax: (381)11-344-2947