Kenya + 5 more

UNHCR Briefing Notes: fYR of Macedonia/Serbia (Kosovo), West Africa/boat, Somalia/Eritrea, France/appeal

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
1. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia/Serbia (Kosovo)

The flow of refugees from Macedonia to Kosovo has dwindled to a trickle, with just over 500 persons arriving in Kosovo on Monday. The arrivals started to decrease last Friday when an estimated 1,600 persons arrived at the main border crossing from Macedonia to Kosovo at Blace, down from over 2,000 the day before. The arrivals from Macedonia in southern Serbia have also gone down dramatically with few new arrivals reported this week. Some of the refugees arriving in Blace said the drop in the number of those leaving was linked to the most recent cease-fire. A total of 48,000 people have fled from Macedonia to Kosovo since last February with 39,000 arriving since the fighting resumed at the beginning of May. The remaining 9,000 are people who fled during the first outbreak in hostilities last March and have remained in Kosovo since then.

2. West Africa/boat odyssey

UNHCR learned this morning that the ship with about 150 Liberians which has been stranded off West Africa for more than 10 days, left Benin's territorial waters last night around 18:00 local time, after being denied permission to dock. The boat was reportedly headed towards Nigeria. The ship had been waiting offshore for authorisation to disembark its passengers, mostly Liberians, who had already been refused entry into Ghana last week, after leaving Monrovia the week before. UNHCR on Monday obtained authorisation to visit in order to interview the passengers and assess their status and possible claims for asylum. However, by the time the authorisation came, the boat was already on its way out. UNHCR suspects that some of the passengers may be refugees and remains very concerned. It is important that a quick solution be found before the conditions on the boat deteriorate.

3. Somalia/Eritrea

Somali refugees will repatriate from Eritrea for the first time tomorrow, Wednesday, when 57 volunteers board a UNHCR-chartered aircraft in Asmara for a flight to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The 25 families registered to take Wednesday's flight are among 1,230 Somali refugees who have asked UNHCR to help repatriate them. They represent almost all of the Somali refugees in Eritrea who have been in the country since the early 1990s. At the end of 2000, there were 1,253 refugees in Eritrea.

All the returnees are from the Mogadishu area. Before leaving Eritrea, each returnee will receive a cash grant to aid their re-integration in Somalia. Authorities in the Somali Transitional National Government have given UNHCR clearance and pledged co-operation for the operation.

The repatriation from Eritrea is the second to Mogadishu this year, illustrating the growing interest among Somali exiles to repatriate since the installation of the temporary government. UNHCR also returned 117 refugees from Yemen by air in April this year. Some 2,800 refugees who remain in Yemen are expected to return by boat before the end of the year. Two-thirds of the group will be returning to Mogadishu. In addition, around 7,700 Somalis in camps in Kenya have told UNHCR that they would like to repatriate, mostly to areas of southern Somalia, including the capital.

UNHCR cares for 281,423 Somali refugees in the region of the Horn with the largest number (137,000) in Kenya.

4. France/appeal

In an unprecedented action of parliamentary solidarity for the 1951 refugee convention, the "Appel de Paris" adopted by the historic Assemblée de Réfugiés, which gathered at the French National Assembly on Saturday, was sent out yesterday by the President of the Assembly, M. Raymond Forni, to all the national parliaments around the world. The text of the Appel de Paris is available in French, English and Spanish, either from UNHCR or from the French National Assembly website: www.assemblee-nationale.fr. People accessing the website can add their names in support of the Appel de Paris.

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