Refugee flood swamps volunteers

Click to follow
A NEW influx of refugees fleeing the turmoil in the former Yugoslavia is adding to the pressure on already-stretched voluntary groups in Britain.

In the past three weeks, about 300 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo have arrived at Heathrow airport - a further indication of worsening unrest in the southern Serbian province, fuelling fears that it will be the next to break out in civil war.

Sandy Buchan, of the Refugee Arrivals Project, said that these Albanians currently formed the largest refugee group arriving at the airport. More were expected late last night and again tonight as flights arrive from Lubianka in the north and Macedonia to the south.

Ninety per cent of Kosovo's two million population are ethnic Albanians, but the province's minority Serbs have ended Kosovo's autonomy. There is now an armed Serbian presence in the Kosovo capital and those Albanians arriving in London speak of fears of coming under attack and ethnic re-organisation, with Serbs being encouraged to move to the province.

As the situation worsens, more will inevitably swell the numbers from the former Yugoslavia seeking refuge in Britain and other European countries. Refugee groups said yesterday that the Government must form an emergency committee to co-ordinate official and voluntary group response.

Mr Buchan said: 'It is time the Government formed a proper refugee policy to cope with crises like this.' His government-funded project at Heathrow employs 13 staff to advise and help refugees with accommodation and immediate basic needs. But as the numbers coming in from all over the world in the past three weeks have risen from 49 families a week to 111, he is in danger of overspending and running out of emergency accommodation. He has appealed to the Home Office for an extra pounds 20,000 a month for the next three months in order to cope.

Susannah Cox, for the Refugee Council, which is also helping growing numbers from the former Yugoslavia, said: 'There is no settlement policy for any asylum-seekers - not just those from Yugoslavia - it is a patchwork of provision.'

UN helpless, page 13