War in the Balkans: Refugee camps: UN cash running out in Macedonia cash for refugees

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THE UNITED Nations refugee agency said it was running out of money to fund the Kosovo crisis and warned tensions were rising in badly overcrowded camps in Macedonia. Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the cash shortage could set back efforts to help the estimated 750,000 Kosovars who have fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.

The UNHCR and the Albanian government stepped up efforts to move refugees encamped in the northern city of Kukes away from the Yugoslav border. Yesterday officials eager to promote a move south held meetings with leaders from families living in tents erected by the aid group Medecins sans Frontieres and in the tractor park, an informal grouping of tractors in a field on the edge of the city.

But few seemed convinced their security would be improved. "We have moved once from our city by force. Why should we move again?" asked Aziz Ferizi, who lives with 17 relatives in the camp. "They said we had to leave because of security, you will get refugee cards, and there will be no difficulties moving, and the conditions will be better and safer. But in the end, all the families decided to stay." By mid- afternoon, only a few families in the camp, which houses about 6,000 refugees, had expressed an interest in leaving.

"I don't think we had high expectations, but we've got to do something," said Ray Wilkinson, spokesman for the UNHCR. "Our concerns are genuine."

These concerns are many and include security, the risk of cross-border retaliation by the Serbs, especially after recent Nato strikes, and general fears of banditry and assaults on vulnerable refugees. There is also the problem of the lack of provision for new arrivals such as the 3,677 who arrived on foot on Monday; and the difficulties of maintaining camps in a remote area served by bad roads.

The most popular camp in Kukes is that built by the United Arab Emirates, which has agreed to relocate its services to another site, yet to be found, somewhere to the south. The camp has been criticised by some for providing too good a service - "They told us to take one star off," Ahmed al-Buainain, the senior Red Crescent official here said drily - and thus dissuading refugees from moving on.

A survey of the 8,000 residents found only 300 willing to move with the camp. "It was a big surprise to us," said Mr al-Buainain. But he added that three factors deterred Kosovars from moving on. "They are either waiting for their family members to come from Kosovo, or they have a relative with the Kosovo Liberation Army, [or] they hope they can go home soon."