UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 52

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 11 Aug 1998
This report has been compiled by UNHCR with support from OCHA and with inputs from UN Agencies and other humanitarian organizations in FRY, FYROM and Albania
1. KOSOVO

1.1 Meeting with Donors Convened in Belgrade. A Meeting with UN Agencies and Donors was convened by UNHCR in Belgrade on 6 August in order to update donors on UN activities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The crisis in Kosovo was one of the main items on the agenda, and donors were briefed on, inter-alia, the current situation in Kosovo, UN responses to the humanitarian crisis, and the outcome of the inter-agency regional meeting on the crisis related to Kosovo held in Geneva on 5 August.

1.2 Donors Encouraged to Contribute Urgently and Generously. Donors were encouraged to contribute urgently and generously to the UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Flash Appeal for Humanitarian Assistnace Needs Related to the Kosovo Crisis, as responses received to date since its launch in mid-June have been rather disappointing, though some few countries had given generously, especially in light of the urgent humanitarian needs of the war-affected population and the drama of the situation in Kosovo. It was mentioned that food for the war-affected population as well as for the several thousand refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina and from Croatia was needed most immediately. Only about 25% has been contributed against the current Flash Appeal for Kosovo.

1.3 Humanitarian Agencies Speak on Kosovo. The Secretary of the Yugoslav Red Cross raised his concern saying that the level of external assistance had decreased in all of FRY this year, while the humanitarian situation had been aggravated by the current crisis in Kosovo.

IFRC commended the extraordinary job performed by the local Red Cross, but expressed its view that the capacities of national entities were stretched to the limit at this time, and that more assistance was required.

WHO highlighted their recent activities in Kosovo which included delivery of emergency health kits and surgical kits to hospitals. WHO has also opened a presence in Montenegro and has delivered medical assistance in the area. It was stressed that lack of access to IDPs and their high mobility remained a major problem in Kosovo, and that a ceasefire was essential in order to adequately take care of the medical needs of the people in Kosovo.

UNICEF explained that 20 tons of relief supplies had arrived in Pristina on 6 August, as part of a larger consignment. UNICEF has decided to shift more of its operations into a relief mode, and was currently re-programming its annual funds to allow a strengthened involvement in emergency operations. UNICEF will continue to be actively involved in education projects for internally displaced children in Montenegro, funded by contributions from the Government of Denmark.

IOM explained that they were actively engaged in resettlement of refugees in FRY to Canada, Australia and the US, and that they would continue to provide their services.

UNLO expressed grave concern over the situation in Kosovo and stressed that utmost attention should be placed in search for a viable solution. UNLO also expressed its appreciation for the work of the international community and the humanitarian organisations.

UNHCR, as the Chair of the meeting, also highlighted serious concerns over human rights abuses in Kosovo, saying that it was an "extremely worrying" situation. Figures on missing persons were increasing, most likely as a result of arrests and detention by the police and abduction by the UCK. Protection was thus an issue for both the refugees sheltered in Kosovo and for others affected by the crisis. Importance of coordination among humanitarian agencies, as well as with other international actors including diplomatic observer missions, was also stressed. As one of the coordination services, UNHCR will continue to escort relief delivery convoys of other humanitarian agencies to ensure radio coverage, especially for safety and security reasons.

1.4 UNHCR Assessment Team Enter Western Drenica. On 8 August, a UNHCR team made an assessment trip to the area west of the Glogovac-Srbica road where reportedly many IDPs were staying in the forest. The vehicles were loaded with 990 litres of drinking water, which were later distributed to the displaced persons in the forest.

1.5 IDPS Moving From Forest Area to Kosovska Mitrovica. No problems were faced at the Komoran checkpoint. After having turned off the main road at Glogovac, the team followed a dirt track that led into the forest towards Klina. Not far from Glogovac the team encountered an armed UCK checkpoint and an unarmed person undertook to guide the team to where the IDPs were.

After about one hours drive along extremely bad forest tracks, the team reached a point close to Ujmir where a small group of IDPs were camping along a dry river bed. They said that about 3,000 people were hiding in the hills above. Earlier, there had been many more people staying in this river valley. However, most of them fled two days ago because of shelling in the area. They had reportedly fled towards Kosovska Mitrovica.

1.6 People Wish to Return Home. The IDPs who stayed decided to do so because they wanted to remain close to their villages: they had nowhere else to go. They said they wanted to return to their homes even though they knew the houses had been looted and burned. One old man had returned to his village one night to see his house, only to find out that it had burnt down and was empty of valuable household goods. Flyers inviting people to return in safety had been dropped on the area by police helicopters, but the IDPs did not trust the message from the Serbian authorities.

1.7 Distant "Thunder". As UNHCR staff were talking to the IDPs, distant thunder could be heard. At the same time UNHCR observed some people moving down the hill some two kilometers from where they were were standing. The IDPs claimed that these people were fleeing shelling which was apparently taking place on the other side of the hill, in Ujmir. Later in Pristina, it was indeed reported that Ujmir had been shelled earlier in the day.

1.8 Destroyed Villages. After having delivered the water to the IDPs, the UNHCR team continued through the villages of Obrija, Pluzina, Likovac, Rezala and Marina, at which point the team rejoined the main road between Glogovac and Srbica. In Obrija and Pluzina, everyday life seemed to go on as normal with no signs of clashes.

In Likovac, Rezala and Marina, however, there were signs of recent shelling and burning. The UCK commander in Likovac said that the villages had been shelled the whole day of 6 August, causing the population (and UCK members) to flee. The police forces had then entered the villages, looted and burnt down houses.

The center of Likovac was quite badly damaged with practically all houses around the central square in ruins. One house was still smouldering. In the other houses, there was a smell of fresh fire. Dead horses and cows were laying by the roadside. The worst damage was seen in Rezala and Marina, where almost all houses had been damaged or totally destroyed. In spite of this, people were returning. One gentleman in a very emotional state of mind came out of his house, telling UNHCR that he had returned only today, to find his house totally looted and partly burnt down. Many wheat fields had also been burned.

It appeared that the Serbian security forces had spent only one day in the area and then withdrawn to their bases along the main road. UCK had now returned, bringing some of the villagers back with them. Women and children, however, were still staying in the forest.

1.9 No Access to Lausha. Also on 8 August, the team finally attempted to go to Lausha, which reportedly had been captured by Serbian police forces on 6 August. Police at the heavily fortified checkpoint at the entrance of Lausha told the team that it was unsafe to enter the village and that clashes were still going on. The team then turned back and returned to Pristina.

1.10 Aid Convoy to Djakovica. A WFP-CRS convoy went to Djakovica to assess the situation there and deliver some supplies to IDPs (wheat flour and food parcels). A UNHCR staff accompanied the team and provided radio communication. The intention was also to test access. The road between Klina and Djakovica was blocked by a UCK barricade and unpassable. The convoy then took the road through Pec and Decane to Djakovica. There was visibly more damage in this area than in June, when it was last visited. On the return trip, much time was taken at several police checkpoints between Stimlje and Suva Reka. The impression was that police were deliberately trying to slow down the convoy.

1.11 UNHCR and WFP Agree on Food Aid Policy. On 7 August, UNHCR and WFP discussed and agreed on a set of guidelines for the delivery of humanitarian daily rations to address the needs of the war affected population in Kosovo. Special attention was placed in considering the humanitarian imperative to assist the war-affected civilians. A finalised version of the guidelines will be available shortly.

2. NORTHERN ALBANIA
(UNHCR Tirana/Bajram Curri 31/07 - 7/08 1998)

GENERAL SITUATION

2.1 Security Measures Increased. Areas throughout Albania and particularly the North remained insecure in general. After numerous requests by relief agencies to strengthen security measures in the Tropoje District, the Government of Albania announced that new measures will be taken to control the situation. A plan of action was prepared to cope with crime and arms trafficking. The Government has also reiterated its call for NATO troops to be stationed in north-east Albania to help the Government control the supply route of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK).

2.2 Movement Restricted After Ten at Night. Chief of Police in Bajram Curri has agreed with UNHCR that staff members will be escorted home every night for prevention and protection purposes. UN agencies and NGOs have restricted their movement after 22:00 hours.

Improvement in limiting UCK/KLA presence in Bajram Curri and other communes has been noticed during the reporting period.

UNHCR Bajram Curri continues to chair the security coordination meetings, which takes place every week

2.3 Refugee Committee Established. A Refugee Committee was created last week, representing refugees in the Tropoje District. This is a major development as it will provide a mechanism whereby refugees can reflect their concerns. UNHCR together with local authorities is preparing the ground to have the Committee integrated in all distribution monitoring as well as in identification of assistance to the vulnerable.

2.4 International Aid Effort Decrease in Tropoje. Assistance activities, especially those undertaken by the NGOs have decreased in the Tropoje District. The following is a list of non-UN organisations remaining in the District:

- Committee Cap Anamour
- Albanian Encouragement Programme (AEP)
- Humanitarian Cargo Carrier's ( HCC)
- Swiss Disaster Relief (SDR)
- THW
- Terre des Hommes
- Albanian Red Cross(ARC)
- ICRC (one delegate for tracing activity)
- IFRC (one delegate who will return from Tirana)

2.5 Increased Flow of Kosovo Refugees to Albania. During the reporting period, a relatively sharp increase was seen in the number of refugees crossing the border from Kosovo into Albania. It may be recalled that this flow had once come to a complete halt in mid June-early July. Breakdown is as follows:

Monday 3 August
230 refugees from Kosovo crossed over through Qafa e Prushit, west of the town of Djakovica in Kosovo.

Tuesday 4 August
61 Kosovo Albanian refugees crossed into Albania through the Qafa e Prushit area.

Wednesday 5 August
17 new arrivals reported coming through the Qafa e Prushit area. Also, about 80 Kosovo Albanians arrived from Junik. Some of the new refugees has been sheltered in a compound in Fierze, near Bajram Curri, and the rest has found refuge in another village.

Thursday 6 August
16 new arrivals reported.

2.6 Re-registration Completed in Tropoje District. The re-registration process has been completed in the District of Tropoje. The process began on 30 July and was conducted by the Office for Refugees. The exercise went smoothly and no incidents were reported. UNHCR monitored the process closely. Results will be out shortly.

PROTECTION ISSUES

2.7 Host Family Scheme Reaching Limits. It has become increasingly apparent that the "host family approach" to accommodating and caring for refugees will not hold much longer. Some refugees have already been evicted by host families, as rents had not been paid by the refugees, and/or as not enough aid was available from relief agencies to adequately meet the needs of both the host and the refugee families. The refugees are therefore likely to be displaced once again: this time within Albania, either in Tropoje District or in other areas of the country.

2.8 Refugees Running Out of Resources. The little resources refugees brought with themselves are draining. Surviving on their own resources, including payment of rent to the host families, is coming to an end. Their dependency on external aid is therefore increasing, and as the winter approaches, the refugees would likely face an extremely vulnerable situation. As the absorption capacity of the northern area is minimal, intensive efforts continue to be made to arrange for a proper settlement of these people.

2.9 Three Different Situation Observed Among Refugees. Situation regarding the refugees may be categorized into the following three:

(a) the rich and able have left to other places within Albania or to third countries after crossing over into Albania from Kosovo;

(b) those with no resources have been surviving on aid from relief agencies, as no work opportunities exists; and

(c) those refugees with family members fighting across the border in Kosovo. These people allege that they don't want to move away from Tropoje, even if they had to survive on their own means, as the distance between the fighting member and the family, as they say, would increase.

Formulating a feasible scheme for proper provision of protection and assistance to the third group of people will be a challenge for the international community.

2.10 Intermingling of Refugees and Fighters. Recruitment of Kosovar fighters from the case load of refugees residing in the area (particularly Tropoje district) continue to be apparent. During interviews, Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) fighters disclosed very innocently that their families live in Tropoje. They also said that a fighter usually stays 2 months in the combat area before coming back to visit their families. Some fighters have their families in the forests in Kosovo where they go and meet them, but the fighters still come to Tropoje to collect weapons and other requirements to take them across the border into Kosovo.

2.11 Increasing Number of Refugees Visit UNHCR with Requests. Individual refugees are increasingly approaching UNHCR both in Bajram Curri and in Tirana. Requests range from arrangement for family reunion, resettlement, to tracking of relatives in other countries. Family problems and stress due to being a refugee are also brought up. Some individuals are traumatised and many parents are worried about their children's education and of the possibility of their daughters getting exposed to sexual harassment. The question of admission of refugee children to local schools is yet to be addressed, as the schools are closed at this time.

Atrocities and crimes against refugee women have been reported. Efforts are underway to examine them case by case, looking into what had happened, and what other assistance beside the immediately available could be provided. Domestic and family problems have also been reported. From the fleeing groups of refugees, particularly from the ones that have arrived recently, there are reports of children and elderly being killed and or left on the way, being exposed to armed attacks while fleeing from the villages and/or crossing the border.

ASSISTANCE OPERATION

2.12 Shelter. UNHCR is still waiting Albania government authorisation to use buildings in Burrel to relocate refugees from the North. Meanwhile, IRC is preparing a budget proposal to repair these buildings before the reception of refugees. Buildings in Burrel, however, are not enough to relocate all refugees currently staying near the border. Therefore, the search for other buildings continues.

2.13 Food. Meetings between IFRC, UNHCR and WFP were held to coordinate distribution of food in Bajram Curri, Tropoje and other communes in Tropoje District. Distribution for the month of August was coordinated among UNHCR, WFP, IFRC and Islamic Relief Agency operating in the area. Eight trucks carrying relief items of WFP and ARC reached Bajram Curri on 6 August. Food distribution started again from 7 August.

2.14 Tropoje District. The SDR rehabilitation of both the communal building and the kindergarten in Fierze is ongoing without any problem. THW reports no problem regarding their rehabilitation of the former Military Hospital. UNHCR has identified a building in Tropoje District that is currently hosting 33 refugees. The building has been cleaned and is currently under quick minor repair. The refugees themselves are helping to upgrade the place. Two other buildings have been identified, and with some quick-fix, these will be available to host up to 100 people. In addition, in co-operation with the Mayor of Fierze, some empty apartments have been identified, and with the clear understanding of the owners living out of the district, these are at the disposal at no charge to UNHCR through the coordination of the Mayor.

Currently, two centres are operational: one in Bajram Curri (hosting capacity of 80 people) and a second one in Fierze (hosting capacity of 30).

2.15 Kukes and Has District. The situation is reported to be calm. A total of five refugees have been identified and assisted by UNHCR in relocating voluntarily from Bajram Curri to Kukes. Field monitoring of the 115 refugees is conducted on regular basis with no major problems to report.

2.16 Shkodra District. In view of the overcharged capacity in Tropoje district, UNHCR, in coordination with the Catholic Church and Caritas Albania, arranged for the relocation of nine vulnerable refugees to the reception centre in the Shkodra church compound. UNHCR and WFP will provide assistance to the refugees accommodated in this center.

For information, please contact:

Mans Nyberg, UNHCR Pristina
Tel: 381-38-321-09

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