War In The Balkans: Delays cause misery on the border 100,000 jam all roads to sanctuary

The Exodus

EMMA BONINO, the European Commissioner for Overseas Aid, spent 20 minutes at this border crossing yesterday, where thousands of exhausted people languished in their cars, on tractors and on horse-drawn carts.

They were waiting patiently to be processed by the Albanian authorities, who had suddenly decided to add to the misery by taking the name of every refugee crossing, instead of waving them through as they had been doing since the exodus began on Saturday.

After her lightning visit by helicopter, instead of the arduous seven- hour road trip, Ms Bonino and her entourage departed for further meetings with UN officials about the refugee crisis.

The pitiful exodus continues from Kosovo, with no mercy shown to the old, the sick, nor the poor, as they pour out of the embattled province under the vicious Serb promise - Albania or death.

The border crossing is now split into two lanes, with cars on the right, pedestrians on the left. With at least 100,000 people said to be jamming the road, there was no let-up in sight.

Enver Doda left Pristina, 120km away, at 10am on Wednesday and arrived in Albania 29 hours later.

"The police organised the trip straight to Albania - they didn't let us go anywhere else. I did not want to leave Kosovo but I had to because of the police," he said.

"They came banging on the doors and shouting, and saying if we don't leave now a bullet is waiting for us - either Albania or death."

Thousands of refugees who had walked for hours were slumped in a grassy field just beside the border.

They were mostly women and children, bundled up in brightly coloured jackets and carrying pathetic items of luggage - clothes wrapped in blankets, or bulging plastic bags, or the odd suitcase carried on the shoulder.

They were waiting for some kind of transport out - but it was in short supply.

Where were the buses and mini-vans that in previous days, had shipped refugees out at the government's expense? "Ask the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]," said one Western official, grimly.

The few foreign aid workers who are already in place at the border crossing have expressed anger and distress at the delay in setting up proper facilities for the refugees. It seems to have taken an inordinately long time for the international aid agencies to grasp the scale of the crisis, despite the fact that it was obvious to many observers that Albania - and the main road crossing at Morini - would be a prime destination for Kosovars expelled by the Serbs.

Aid workers from smaller aid agencies handed out small jars of baby food - peach puree - to bemused refugees walking over the discarded wrappings of emergency rations that are now depleted.

As a result of the delays in passing the border, at least one refugee died of exposure. The body of Rexhep Nimani, 72, lay cradled in his widow's arms, in the back of a tractor-trailer loaded with 35 children.

"He died today, at about 8am," said a friend, Skender Mauriqi. "He was not sick but it was very cold. We stayed outside all night in the rain.

"We left Pristina at 1pm yesterday. All the way, he kept saying that he wanted to go back..."

Nehad Cetaku, an electronics graduate forced under the Serbian system to work as a mechanic, was desperate to get his pregnant wife, Rabija, into hospital, as she is due to give birth within 48 hours.

"We left Pristina because we had to leave Pristina. They gave us about five minutes to leave our houses, saying if we do not do this, we take a bullet," he said wryly.

Valbona Bajgora, whose family had not eaten for three days because they were too frightened to leave home until forced out by masked gunmen, said many of those expelled from the capital were told to gather at the train station.

"The whole of Pristina was there," she said bitterly. From there, they were taken by bus to the village of Zur, and made to walk to the border. "One of my Serb neighbours arrived the moment I went down the stairs, and followed me out carrying my television and my video," she added.

But others, rather than taking advantage of the anarchy, tried to help.

"I saw some Serb neighbours who were crying, looking at us leaving. One Serb who lives near the mosque came out, begging the soldiers not to kick us out," Mr Mauriqi said. "But they were shooting in the air. Just like in Hitler's time. I never thought I would live long enough to see this."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Grange Retirement Home: Full Time Care Team Manager

£22,400: The Grange Retirement Home: This is a key role which requires a sound...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada