Liberation of Kosovo: Refugees - Half Albanians `already home'
Tuesday 29 June 1999
"This is the first day and we did not want to run 5,000 people up here in one fell swoop," Ron Redmond, UNHCR spokesman, explained. "We've only identified three urban areas where we've got all the conditions in place for a return." The designated safe environments are the province's capital, Pristina, and the southern towns of Prizren and Urosevac.
Aid workers handed out yellow food-ration packages and bottles of water to help in the first few hours, and lists of distribution points for those needing longer-term assistance. Mr Redmond said the number of refugees outside Kosovo had dropped below 400,000, which suggests that more than 400,000 refugees have already returned to their homes independently.
Sami Rrustemi, a Kosovo Liberation Army fighter demobilised on Sunday, went straight to Stenkovic refugee camp close to the Macedonian border to find the relatives he had not seen for a year. "I was in the mountains fighting," he said, "and the family went to Pristina last summer when [the Serbs] burnt our house."
On Sunday he walked into the camp and met a cousin who passed on the family's tent number. "No one believed that we would see each other again," Mr Rrustemi said. "There were tears, of course, but also very big smiles, a lot. It's just like a dream, I still cannot believe it."
The return of the refugees will only mark the start of the struggle back to normality. Kosovo is a shattered country with a virtually non-existent infrastructure. At times it seems that the only things working are being organised by either the international peace force K-For or foreign aid agencies. Even in Pristina there are shortages of basic items and fuel remains scarce. Crime is also increasing, with many homes and properties being looted or attacked by arsonists.
In Belgrade, meanwhile, a UN official appealed for more aid and attention to be given to Serbs fleeing Kosovo. Paula Biocca, of the UN World Food Programme, said the number of displaced Serbs from Kosovo "could easily be up to 100,000", while earlier estimates had put the number at 70,300.
Ms Biocca visited 12,000 Kosovo Serbs who found shelter in two camps in the central Serbian town of Kraljevo, but she said 8,000 more were believed to be in the area. The World Food Programme started distributing the first emergency food aid to Kosovo Serb refugees on 23 June.
- 2 Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
- 3 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 4 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...
£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...
£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...