M. Cana on Thu, 8 Apr 1999 22:27:46 +0200 (CEST)

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   Kosova Crisis Center (KCC) News Network: http://www.alb-net.com
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      Human Rights Watch

      April 7, 1999


     Human Rights Watch condemns the Macedonian government's forcible
     relocation of tens of thousands of Kosovo refugees during the past 48
     hours, in total disregard of obligations under international refugee
     law.  Since Monday, Macedonian authorities have forced tens of
     thousands of refugees onto planes or buses, and transported them to
     Albania and other countries.  Some refugees have been separated from
     their families.  In addition, a large number of Kosovo Albanians who
     had been waiting for days on the Yugoslav side to enter Macedonia,
     were apparently forced back into Kosovo by the Serbian police.  Their
     whereabouts are unknown and Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned
     about their fate.

     "The treatment of Kosovo refugees in Macedonia has been deplorable"
     said Holly Cartner, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia
     division of Human Rights Watch. "There are clear international norms
     that must be adhered to and the treatment of refugees in Macedonia is
     an extremely troubling development."

     Until Tuesday, April 6, as many as 65,000 refugees had been trapped
     for days in Blace, a muddy "no-mans land" between the borders of
     Kosovo and Macedonia, waiting to enter Macedonia.  Refugees were held
     in appalling conditions, with no shelter, humanitarian relief, or
     medical assistance.   During Tuesday night, most of the refugees in
     this area were forcibly cleared by the Macedonian authorities.  The
     passports, blankets, and clothing found at the empty site today by
     UNHCR officials indicates that refugees were removed in haste.
     Refugees were given no information about where they were being taken
     and did not give their consent to be moved.  UNHCR and IOM  officials
     were not informed about plans to move the refugees and were not
     present during the relocation.

     Reports now indicate that thousands of refugees were taken to the new
     transit center at Brazda.  Some were transported out of Macedonia by
     plane to Turkey, and thousands of others were taken by bus to Albania
     and Greece.  A Human Rights Watch representative in Skopje reported
     that the whereabouts of an estimated 10,000 refugees apparently
     relocated during this period remains unknown.    Human Rights Watch is
     deeply concerned that those transported out of Macedonia were not
     registered prior to their departure and that UNHCR was given no
     information about their identities.  In some cases, family groups were
     not allowed to travel together, and no proper records were kept to
     facilitate family reunification.

     In addition, the whereabouts of a large number of persons who had been
     waiting inside Kosovo at the Jazince and Blace border crossings is
     unknown.  International monitors reported receiving telephone calls
     throughout the day from persons who had been waiting at the border and
     were then forced to go back to Pristina by Serbian police units. Human
     Rights Watch visited the Macedonia-Yugoslav border crossings at
     Jazince and Blace today.  Both were empty of people and reportedly
     closed on the Serbian side.

     Human Rights Watch urgently calls on the Macedonian government to keep
     its borders open and to uphold its obligations under international
     refugee law. Refugees should not be moved out of Macedonia against
     their will, and every effort should be made to keep families together.
     UNHCR and relief agencies should be given unhindered access to
     provide assistance and protection to the refugees.

     For further information contact:
     Fred Abrahams (1-212) 216-1270
     Holly Cartner (1-212) 216-1277

     ***For further information about violations of human rights and
     humanitarian law in Kosovo, see the Human Rights Watch website at
     www.hrw.org on the "Crisis in Kosovo" page.   To subscribe to Kosovo
     Human Rights Flashes, send an E-mail to Donalds@hrw.org.***

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