Kosovo refugees attacked by gang of axe-wielding youths
Tuesday 17 August 1999
The refugees said they felt that they had swapped one war zone for another after the group of about 15 youths laid siege to the homes they thought were safe.
The victims included a man who claimed that he narrowly escaped being struck by an axe, and a mother and her three-year-old son who had arrived two days before to be reunited with her husband after a year apart.
One 23-year-old, who smuggled himself into Britain after the Serbs attacked his home in Mitrovica two years ago, said of the woman who arrived on Friday: "She felt she had come from one war and arrived in another. Her son cried throughout the attack and we couldn't stop him. Surely he has gone through too much now.
"We left our country because of things like this and now I am here it is the same. I thought Britain was going to be a safe place but it's worse. I feel like I would have to go to the moon to find peace.
"At least when the Serbs attacked they were doing it because they wanted to take your homes for themselves. But here we were just attacked for no reason."
The man said he was watching television in his terraced home on the Rose Hill estate in the city, when a huge stone smashed through the window, showering him with glass.
Another refugee, aged 19, said of the attack, which began late on Sunday and ran into the early hours of yesterday: "It was terrifying. We couldn't go outside because we would have been killed. The mob used iron bars and axes to hit four cars parked outside. They were yelling at us."
The man, also from Mitrovica, said the Kosovars wanted to go home but were too frightened. "We arrived here in the back of lorries... I get pounds 40 a week benefit and I try to look for work but it is very difficult. Everyone says this is a great free country, but it is not for us."
Last night, Thames Valley Police said it seemed that an earlier altercation between a local youth and a Kosovar "lit the touch paper".
The authorities believe there are about 400 Kosovo refugees living in the Oxford area, some illegally.
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