UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 56

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 24 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 Fresh Outbreak of Violence Results in New Displacement. A fresh outbreak of violence beginning on Saturday has prompted villagers to flee their homes over a broad area southwest of Pristina. Field reports indicated gunfire and shelling occurred in the area of Suva Reka, 40 kilometers west southwest of Pristina. A UNHCR team on its way from Prizren to Suva Reka was turned back on Monday after police at a checkpoint said the road was unsafe. A reporter on Monday told UNHCR Pristina that many displaced persons arrived in the village of Pagarusa between Malisevo and Orahovac following shelling in villages around Suva Reka.

On 23 August, UNHCR received reports that fighting erupted in Komorane, site of a police checkpoint 25 kilometers outside Pristina, beginning on 22 August. Shell blasts were reported and houses were seen ablaze in a string of villages stretching 25 kilometers to the south down to Magura. Fires were seen by travelers along the Pristina-Pec road on Sunday. A UNHCR team was barred from proceeding to Magura on Monday.

According to Kosovo Albanian media sources, strongest attacks by the police took placed in the villages of Recak and Beljine. The number of people displaced by the latest fighting was not immediately known.

1.2 Some Villagers Return Home. Recently, agencies have noted return of some displaced persons in the town of Orahovac and villages in Drenica region. The returned population in these villages may be some 10 to 20 per cent of the original population.

Estimated Displacement Figures:
(as at 24 August 1998)
Displacement within Kosovo* 170,000
Displacement into Montenegro** 33,000
Displacement into other parts of Serbia 20,000
Refugees into Albania*** 14,000
Visitors into FYROM**** 1,000
TOTAL 235,000

* Estimated figure based on information from various organisations in Kosovo.

** An average figure based on figures provided by the Montenegrin Ministry of Interior and the Montenegrin Red Cross, as shown in the next page.

*** Includes 7,000 registered in Tropoje District and an estimated 7,000 who have left for other areas.

**** Figure provided by a local NGO, El Hilal.

1.3 UNHCR Escorts Refugees for Resettlement. UNHCR continues to provide escort services to refugees in Kosovo who have been displaced from Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina during the previous conflict in the former Yugoslavia. On Monday, UNHCR picked up five refugees in Prizren and surrounding areas for resettlement to third countries, and two requiring medical treatment in Pristina.

1.4 UNICEF Provides Essential Drug Kits. UNICEF has recently delivered essential drug kits to state health institutions in Decane, Prizren, and Glogovac.

1.5 Over 450 Kosovo Albanians Killed by the Conflict. According to VIP Daily New Report of 24 August, the head of the news service of the Yugoslav Army's Pristina Corps said on Sunday that Yugoslav border guards had registered 146 armed incidents in Kosovo and killed more than 450 ethnic Albanians so far. The same report says that border guards have also seized 900 rifles, 200 machine guns, 20 recoilless guns, and over 450,000 rounds of various calibre and other military equipment.

2. MONTENEGRO

2.1 Influx of Displaced Persons from Kosovo Continues. Last week saw a sudden increase in the number of people in need of aid in Ulcinj. The Montenegrin Red Cross has registered nearly 3,000 people in one week. Reasons behind this sudden increase remain unclear. Some people may have come through mountain passes without going through police checkpoints, while others may have moved internally from other areas within Montenegro. These new arrivals have made difficult an already desperate situation.

UNHCR received today a report of 150 new arrivals into Tuzi, a town just miles away from Podgorica towards the Montenegro-Albanian border. As the town was already saturated by hosting 1,400 people in private homes, the 150 newly arrived people have been sheltered in a transit centre.

Statistics (as at 24 August 1998)

Ministry of Interior Count of New Arrivals: 32,841
Montenegrin Red Cross Registered Caseload:

Ulcinj 14,125
Rozaje 4,160
Podgorica 4,507
Plav 7,273
Others 4,119
Total 34,184

2.2 Reports of Return from Montenegro to Kosovo. According to the police, two buses with approximately 90 displaced persons from Kosovo left yesterday from Montenegro to Pec. While this report has been seconded by an Italian journalist, no further information is available to UNHCR Podgorica at this time. If this information is correct, it will be the first time a return of this scale has taken place from Montenegro to Kosovo.

2.3 Government to Maintain an Open-Door Policy. As reported earlier, the Montenegrin Government has and will maintain an open-door policy towards those displaced by the conflict in Kosovo. At the same time, however, the Republican Government increasingly stresses that Montenegro should be seen as a "transit point" for the displaced, rather than as a permanent settlement, given the current lack of means to ensure adequate coverage of the needs of the IDPs.

2.4 Assistance Coordination. The Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister has called a meeting to take place this week with the main humanitarian agencies and line ministries, as well as with mayors from four of the most affected towns. The meeting will discuss ways to clarify what should be done to coordinate humanitarian assistance operations in order to respond to the needs on the ground in an effective manner. Separately, WHO will chair a health coordination meeting this coming Thursday.

2.5 NGOs to Open Offices in Podgorica. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS) and Japan Emergency NGOs (JEN) will open offices in Podgorica this week, shortly after which they will begin implementation of their programmes.

3. NORTHERN ALBANIA

3.1 Another Border Incident. Diplomatic sources reported that on 17 August, between 9:00 am and 10:10 am, several mortar bombs fell into Albanian territory, near the village of Padesh. While the situation became calm by noon and no injuries had been reported, some 40 local inhabitants temporarily moved out from the area and returned home late afternoon.

3.2 Shooting Incident Affects UNHCR. Shooting by rival gangs increased last week, one of which resulted in a random bullet hitting the UNHCR office window in Bajram Curri. On 19 August, a UNHCR car was high-jacked at gun point by two armed masked men.

3.3 Aid Agency Presence Limited in Tropoje District. The following is a list of humanitarian aid agencies currently present in the district: Komitee Cap Anamur, Albanian Encouragement Programme, Humanitarian Cargo Carriers, Swiss Disaster Relief , Terre des Hommes, Albanian Red Cross, Islamic Council, THW, ICRC, IFRC, UNHCR, and WFP. (Some have only one delegate who shuttles between Tirana and Tropoje District.)

For information, please contact:

Fernando del Mundo, UNHCR Pristina
Tel: 381-38-321-09

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