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UNHCR Briefing Notes: Kosovo, North Caucasus, Timor

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This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations. Quoted text from this briefing note may be attributed to the UNHCR spokesperson named below
Ron Redmond

1. Kosovo

Yesterday (Monday), 157 Kosovo Albanians left the predominantly Serb north side of Mitrovica for safety in the south of the city. Most of them were taken south in KFOR armored vehicles. These latest displacements bring to 550 the number of Kosovo Albanians who have fled insecurity and intimidation in north Mitrovica since last Friday.

Most of the newly displaced are staying with relatives or friends in south Mitrovica. Only two families are sheltered in UNHCR's collective center in south Mitrovica.

Following the Friday declaration of a curfew from 20:00-05:00 hours, reports of attacks on occupied apartments by grenades and other explosives seem to have declined. UNHCR staff report only one grenade attack Monday, on an unoccupied Kosovo Albanian apartment in north Mitrovica.

But the pillaging of unoccupied Kosovo Albanian apartments in north Mitrovica is apparently widespread, UNHCR staff report. This is very worrying for the Kosovo Albanians who have fled so quickly due to the attacks following the demonstrations and killings of at least seven persons last Thursday night. KFOR currently has additional troops on both sides of Mitrovica.

Before last week's violence, an estimated 4,500 Kosovo Albanians lived in the municipality north of Mitrovica's Ibar River. An estimated 60,000 Kosovo Serbs live in the area, including some 10,000 to 15,000 Kosovo Serbs displaced from other parts of Kosovo.

UNHCR's Special Envoy, Dennis McNamara, who also serves as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs within UNMIK, is asking both the Kosovo Albanian and Serb leaderships to issue strong condemnations of the latest violence. McNamara is scheduled to meet today (Tuesday) with the Joint Administrative Council and will travel to Mitrovica tomorrow (Wednesday) to meet with Kosovo Serb leaders there. Mr. McNamara is asking the two groups to take more concrete action at the community level in helping to find the perpetrators and to encourage any witnesses to come forward following last Wednesday's deadly attack on a UNHCR bus and recent looting and burning of several relief agency offices and nine vehicles in north Mitrovica.

He is stressing that the work of humanitarian agencies must be respected by all of Kosovo's residents.

2. North Caucasus

Yesterday (Monday), a total of 1,115 people arrived in Ingushetia from Chechnya, while 446 went in the opposite direction (from Ingushetia to Chechnya). The "Kavkaz-1" border crossing was open for a two-hour period yesterday, beginning at noon. Of yesterday's arrivals, 500 came from the Urus-Martan district, south of Grozny, where they said military activities had started over the weekend. We had reports on Friday of people leaving that region after Chechen fighters had arrived in the area and warned the population that the fighting would start soon.

The Ingush Migration Service reported that on 5 February (Saturday), 1,163 people arrived in Ingushetia from Chechnya, while 200 people moved to Chechnya from Ingushetia via the crossing point "Kavkaz-1."

UNHCR's 29th relief convoy arrived this morning in Nazran, Ingushetia, after an overnight journey from our base in Stavropol, southern Russia. The 17 trucks delivered 92.4 MT of food (wheat flour and peas), 2,987 mattresses, 708 beds and 9,281 blankets. In addition to UNHCR vehicles, three Danish Refugee Council trucks brought 4,224 winter jackets; one MSF truck brought medicine; one Salvation Army truck brought medicine and baby food; four trucks from Action Against Hunger brought food; and four UNICEF trucks brought hygienic kits.

3. Timor

UNHCR has called on Indonesian authorities to take immediate measures to stop an upsurge in violence committed against refugees and aid workers in West Timor. At least four security incidents were reported in camps outside the West Timor capital of Kupang last week. This includes attacks against journalists and the disruption of repatriation operations. UNHCR is particularly concerned about the fate of two refugees who were yanked out of repatriation buses at Tuapukan camp last week. There are also threats of growing intimidation against aid workers along the border areas of West Timor. Workers are not being allowed inside the camps or are getting veiled threats. Of particular concern is Tuapukan, the biggest camp in West Timor, hosting an estimated 20,000 of the reported 110,000 refugees in the province. UNHCR has urged Indonesian officials to separate militias from refugees - a longstanding request - as well as the redeployment of active military living among the refugee population. UNHCR also has called on the Indonesians to maintain law and order in the camps. Contacts are being made at the highest levels in Jakarta in a bid to get government cooperation.

3. European Asylum Statistics - FR Yugoslavia

The number of FRY applications lodged in Europe during 1999 was "only" 23 per cent higher than during 1998. The very high peak in June 1999 (more than 20,000) was largely offset by very low numbers during the last part of 1999.

Germany's share in receiving FRY applications in Europe has remained relatively constant (25-30%).

However, the Swiss share has tumbled dramatically (from more than 25% during the January-July 1999 period to only 8% in September, October and December 1999).

Conversely, the United Kingdom, which received less than 10% of FRY applicants in Europe in January-June 1999, received more than 20% in September to December 1999.

Despite the recent decline in FRY applications, FRY remains the largest country of origin of asylum-seekers in Europe (11% in December 1999).

This document is intended for public information purposes only. It is not an official UN document.