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Monday, May 31, 1999 Published at 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK


UK defends record on Kosovo refugees

More than 2,000 Kosovo refugees have already flown into the UK

UK Home Secretary Jack Straw has defended the government's record on allowing refugees from Kosovo into the UK.

Mr Straw told the BBC that the number of Kosovo Albanian refugees coming in to the UK each week is set to rise to its peak of 1,000 "the week after next".

Brits in Balkans
Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme on Monday, Mr Straw dismissed suggestions that the UK had been too slow in allowing refugees in.

He said most refugees wanted to stay in the region to be near their homes, and that the UK was taking in those in the greatest need.

Mr Straw said the government had a flexible policy on refugee numbers, and that it should be judged not just on how many refugees it brought in, but also on its humanitarian committment on the ground in Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

He said: "We have deliberately refused to accept either an upper or a lower limit because the situation is one which is changing and has changed considerably.

"As far as numbers are concerned, up to last Friday we had accepted 2,100.

"We actually took in almost 800 last week with five flights, and we are expected to reach a thousand a week the week after next.

Kosovo: Special Report
"It's likely to be the total we will receive in any one week, just for practical reasons," Mr Straw said.

"But we have not set an upper limit, or a lower limit. What we have said is that we should respond flexibly to the situation"

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