UN Inter-Agency Update on Kosovo Situation Report 61

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 08 Sep 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 Mass grave. At 15:30 hours today UNHCR office in Pristina was called to meet with the Prefect of Kosovo, Mr Odalovic, who stated that a mass grave had been discovered at Djakovica. Mr Odalovic was organising an immediate visit to the site for journalists and humanitarian agencies. UNHCR did not participate in the journey having no competence in the subject.

1.2 Ultimatum. The serb police and the VJ visited several villages in the area of Prizren on 5 September. The villagers were issued an ultimatum to surrender their weapons before a deadline. One of the villages was Rugovo along the Prizren-Djakovica road. KDOM saw the VJ convoy proceeding towards Ostrozub, northeast of Orahovac.

According to the reports that the Serb forces launched an attack on the village of Donje Potocane, 2 km west of Orahovac on 3 September. The villagers attempted to move into the hills but were stopped. Women and children were sent to Orahovac and the men, most of whom were subsequently released, to Prizren for interrogation.

UNHCR was informed of the large concentration of population in Koznik; en route to Labucevo and Ponorac, northeast of Orahovac it saw smoke rising from the villages of Kpuz and Kraljane. 50 IDPs the team saw on the road claimed that the village of Kpuz (550 inhabitants originally) was encircled and set on fire. 500 people took to the surrounding hills. No UCK presence was noted. According to the reports of IDPs the village of Zatric between Orahovac and Koznik, was burned to the ground on Thursday and Friday.

According to local villagers the village of Pantina, 5 km southeast of Mitrovica was shelled on Sunday, 6 September. The KDOM team visited the place but could not confirm the reports. However, damage was evident.

1.3 Roundup. A senior foreign ministry official in Pristina told UNHCR on Monday that the government is preparing charges against 40-50 people seized during the roundup of civilians late last week in the Ponorac area of Malisevo. He said they will be given fair trial and allowed to defend themselves. Local aid workers told UNHCR that the operation forced some 20,000 people out of their homes but that some 10,000 had returned. UNHCR emphasized that returns would have negative consequences if the safety of returnees could not be guaranteed.

In view of the above UNHCR visited Ponorac and was asked for urgent food and medical supplies. The team also visited Labucevo where 70% of some 100 houses are destroyed or damaged. Some 1000 local villagers and 2000 IDPs were seen returning.

1.4 Return. Villagers began returning to their homes in the area of Prizren on Saturday following a government offensive in which reportedly more than 50,000 people fled their villages. UNHCR visited Hoca Zagradska, southwest of Prizren and saw some people returning. The village underwent some destruction, but is intact for the most part. KDOM visited the Mayor of Pec and discussed the return into the villages of Grabovac, Zlopek and Lozane, north of Pec. Out of the 80 houses in Grabovac 60% are heavily damaged. In Zlopec 10% of the 50 houses are heavily damaged, while in Lozane 97% of the 70 houses remained intact. The people will need food, clothing and hygienic items.

KDOM visited the area west of the Zrze - Orahovac road and found some returns have been taking place in the villages of Gede and Ratkovac. The villagers from the heavily damaged village of Radoste took shelter in the woods, but come into the village in daytime to take care of their live stock.

The village of Ade is being visited regularly. Since the security situation is improving as well as the living conditions there, an increasing number of people are returning.

Life in Orahovac seems to be back to normal. Over 10,000 IDPs or over 50% are estimated to have returned there.

1.5 Convoys. Two multi-agency convoys with contributions from UNHCR, WFP, Mercy Corps International, Children's Aid Direct, Doctors of the World and Handicap International delivered relief supplies on Saturday. The WFP led convoy that headed for Djinovce, southeast of Suva Reka was stopped at the Serbian Police checkpoint at Stimlje. Convoy leader's vehicle base station was checked and it turned out that one of the radio frequencies, installed for Bosnia, was the same as the local police station. After some delay, the convoy was allowed to proceed escorted by the UNHCR vehicle that joined it in the meantime. Six trucks carried 57 t 360 kg of wheat flour, 1 t 560 kg of oil, 560 kg of pasta, 560 kg of sugar, 504 kg of high protein biscuits, 1 ton of beans, 1000 family food parcels, 108 kg of baby food, 50 packs of sanitary napkins, 120 mattresses and 600 pairs of shoes. The participating agencies were Mercy Corps International, USAID, Children Aid Direct, Doctors of the World and Catholic Relief Service.

The second, UNHCR led, eight-truck convoy went to Djakovica carrying 1750 family food parcels, 78 tons of wheat flour, 1790 kg of high protein biscuits, 168 baby parcels, 324 kg of baby food,144 parcels of baby cream, 43 containers of canned fish, 1 ton of beans, 1790 kg of sugar, 1790 kg of oil, 1790 kg of pasta, 60 packs of sanitary napkins, 1 parcel of soaps, 102 parcels of detergent, 180 mattrasses, 900 pairs of shoes and 5 bales of blankets.

Today, three convoys were organised. UNHCR led five truck convoy carrying supplies for an estimated 10,000 beneficiaries in Guncat. The agencies taking part in the convoy are Children Aid Direct, Catholic Relief Service, Doctors of the World, Mercy Corps International, WFP. The cargo consisted of 5592 family food parcels, 600 kg of high protein biscuits, 40 tons of wheat flour, 1 ton of oil. 1 ton of beans, 10 boxes of baby food, 70 stoves, 30 boxes of sanitary napkins, 27 rolls of plastic sheeting and 1oo sleeping bags.

The second, WFP led, nine-truck convoy, carried 2300 family food parcels, 13080 kg of family food parcels, 54 tons of wheat flour, 1 ton of oil, 1 ton of beans,1496 kg of high protein biscuits, 510 mattrasses, 70 stoves and 50 boxes of sanitary napkins to Prizren. Agencies participating were Children Aid Direct, Doctors of the World and Mercy Corps International.

UNHCR also escorted a truck with 400 boxes of HDRs to an estimated 4000 IDPs in Marmula, east of Djakovica. The truck has not yet returned to Pristina.

1.6 Potential danger. VJ 2nd Army based in Podgorica reported on Friday that the VJ Border Guards had prevented an attempt by a group of Albanian citizens to cross illegally the border into FRY near Grbaja post, municipality of Plav. This raises the question as to whether the UCK have started to use Montenegro to enter Kosovo from Albania. Since the Kosovo-Albanian border is sealed and Montenegro has refused to impose the Border Belt policy decreed some 6 weeks ago by the Federal Government, this might well be the case.

Estimated Displacement Figures: (as at 4 September 1998)

Displacement within Kosovo1
200,000
Displacement into Montenegro2
39,628
Displacement into other parts of Serbia
20,000
Refugees in Bosnia Herzegovina3
5200
Refugees into Albania4
14,000
Refugees into Turkey5
2,000
Visitors into FYROM6
1,000_
TOTAL
281,828

1 Estimated figure based on information from various organisations in Kosovo.
2 An average figure based on figures provided by the Montenegrin Ministry of Interior and the Montenegrin Red Cross, as shown in the next page.
3 Includes 2622 registered asylum seekers
4 Includes 7,000 registered in Tropoje District and an estimated 7,000 who have left for other areas.
5 Figure announced by the Regional Bureau of Europe
6 Figure provided by a local NGO, El Hilal.

1.7 John Shattuck, US Deputy Secretary for Human Rughts and Bob Dole, Chairman of the International Commission for Missing Persons, having visited the conflict zone, said Sunday that they have seen "horrendous violations of humanitarian law and acts of punitive destruction on a massive scale". Shattuck said that the US believes that all situations involving violations of international humanitarian law in Kosovo should be fully investigated and prosecuted by the ICTY in The Hague.

1.8 UNICEF assistance. On Monday, 7 September UNICEF in cooperation with OXFAM and Mercy Corps International launched a training session "Smilekeepers" - psychological support to children under stress. The project aims at providing children in extremely difficult circumstances with opportunities for social activities in which they will be guided to ease up their psychosocial tensions and address the ways of non-violent communication. As part of the UN/NGO convoy, UNICEF has distributed the following emergency supplies for the most needy in Djakovica:

168 boxes of baby hygiene kits
150 boxes of diapers
3 cases of collapsible containers
1 box of toilet soap
10 boxes of sanitary napkins
144 tubes of baby cream
102 tubes of washing detergent
5 bundles of blankets

1.9 WFP Food Aid Update. On 4 September WFP led a small convoy to a village near Malisevo to deliver 800 HDRs and some 80 hygiene kits (CRS) to some 100 displaced persons. This delivery was to be made upon the visit of Hugh Palmer of USAID who was distraught at the situation of the group of people living in the open. However, in the four days between his visit and the delivery the people had moved, so that the aid was distributed to other groups of IDPs living in the open in the vicinity.

95.49 tons of mixed food commodities (75 tons of wheat flour, 10 tons of pulses and 10.49 tons of oil) stored in Skopje will be redirected to other areas of need within Kosovo.

2. MONTENEGRO

2.1 UNHCR field team monitored Plav and Rozaje municipalities late last week. A few families went back to the Rugovska Klisura villages to fetch their belongings and then returned to Montenegro. The road from Pec to Cakor remain closed on the Serbian side. Traffic remains possible only for non-ethnic Albanians. Daily entries by the main road to Rozaje average 100.

2.2 Assistance. The September distribution of food is planned to 42,724 IDPs. The actual quantities of what is to be distributed still depend on the complementary contributions from various donors in addition to the already available amount contributed by WFP and ICRC. IOCC opened an office in Podgorica on 7 September and plans to provide food and non food intems to IDPs, refugees and Montenegrins.

Statistics (as at 08 September 1998)

Ministry of Interior Count of New Arrivals: 36,532

Montenegrin Red Cross Registered Caseload:

Ulcinj
16,855
Rozaje
8,143
Podgorica
5,039
Plav
8,114
Berane
1,217
Bjelopolje
984
Others
2,372
Total
42,724

Average of the two figures is shown on the first page. The discrepancy may be due to the fact that the Ministry of Interior is not keeping track of IDPs traveling through mountain paths. The registration in each municipality conducted by the Commissioner for Displaced Persons' Office is proceeding slowly, with only 9,000 IDPs recorded to date.

2.3 Protection. Head of Police in Podgorica informed UNHCR of a significant increase in thefts and petty crimes in the city associated with the arrival of IDPs. He expressed concern over the presence of KLA elements in the Republic, intense smuggling activites on the Albanian border and organised transport of IDPs via the lake of Skadar. He said the check-up of identity of the displaced is conducted at random, both in private accommodation and, as of recently in collective centres. Upon such an action in a collective centre in Tuzi, 50 IDPs left.

UNHCR closely monitors bus departures from Podgorica to Pec. Apparently, a few Albanian families return to Pec and the surrounding villages every day, but those without Ids do not take their chances. UNHCR saw 15 ethnic Albanian IDPs departing from Podgorica to Klina and Pec and 15 Roma returning to the latter.

3. ALBANIA

3.1 Security. The situation in the area of Padesh and Kamenica is calm. However, ECMM reports military activities in the area of Zogaj. However, 30 local Albanian families claiming insecurity left the Padesh area for Bajram Curri in the course of the last week. The security in the Tropoje District continuing tense the majority of UNHCR's international staff members are still in Tirana. Activities are reduced to the essential, mainly around Bajram Curri and the transit centre. The international organisations remaining as on 6 September are ECMM, OSCE, UNHCR and the Islamic Coordination Council.

On 1 September two serious incidents occurred at the warehouse of the Albanian Red Cross and the Islamic Coordination Council. Namely, a large group of masked, armed men threatened the guards and looted over 16 tons of food and non food items. As a result all aid for September from UNHCR, WFP, IFRC and the Islamic coordination are on stand-by in Tirana until guarranties of escort and security are given.

The situation in Kukes and Has district is calm. UNHCR is asssisting 455 refugees in the area.

3.2 New arrivals. During the week 31 August - 7 September 250 persons crossed the border in the Zogaj area. The majority are hosted at the UNHCR transit centre in Bajram Curri and all of them are registered by the Albanian Office for Refugees. Most of the assisted originate from the area of Junik and Decani who have left their homes weeks ago and waiting the propitious moment to cross the border. They report loss and burning of houses. Since the families leaving to Tirana Skodra, Durres and elsewhere in Albania do not deregister it is very hard to determine the precise number of refugees and some 6000 are estimated.

3.3 Assistance and shelter. WFP began distribution in central part of the country on 7 September. There are now over 4,500 refugees in the Durres area and the figure is expected to reach 7,000 by the end of the month. WFP began four bakery projects in this area where refugees provide bread to 4,500 refugees with wheat flour supplied by WFP. The organisation reached a tri-partite agreement with Caritas to meet the food aid needs of up to 320 vulnerable refugees accommodated in a collective centre in Shkoder and a further 300 refugees in the town.

The demand for non food items is greater than can be supplied. In order to fulfill the needs purchase of them has been pursued. As reported previously, heating/cooking stoves are the most urgent necessity. Preparations for winter conditions in regards to shelter are under way.

4. FYR of MACEDONIA

4.1 Following the IFRC Country Representative the number of families from Kosovo approaching the Macedonian Red Cross branches is slowly increasing. The MRC/Federation directly support with food, hygienic items, bedding and other some 150 people. It is noteworthy that several of the families are not ethnic Albanians, but Serbs. UNHCR is assisting some of the families wigh help in visa extensions and access to the Macedonian health care system. It is estimated that several hundred people from Kosovo are being assisted in various ways by either Red Cross or the UN system.

According to Nova Makedonija daily the control of the border between Macedonia and Kosovo will soon be strenghtened with four new observations posts, amounting to 14 observations posts on borders towards Albania and FRY.

For information, please contact:

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