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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 22:50 GMT

World: Europe

Kosovo refugees stranded

Women weep as they wait to registers as refugees

Fighting in Kosovo is believed to have left as many as 30,000 refugees stranded and in the open.

Reports from both Nato and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) claim increasing evidence of people fleeing atrocities in Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
The government in neighbouring Albania said around 2,000 refugees have crossed into the country at the Morina border post, and that thousands more are on their way.

Reports, quoting residents and aid workers, speak of people being rounded up and shot and of widespread looting and burning of buildings.

The Kosovo-Albanians accuse Serbia of using aircraft and artillery against them in their central Kosovo stronghold of Drenica, and say 20,000 civilians have fled.

Clarence Mitchell hears refugees' tales of atrocities
The British Defence Minister George Robertson said that numbers of refugees and internally displaced people were "increasing rapidly".

"There are reported to be 30,000 people in the open," he said.

"There are reports of large numbers of refugees waiting to cross the border into Albania."

UNHCR representatives in the region had reported some movement on the borders of Albania, Macedonia, Hungary and even Bosnia.

Lyndall Sachs, a UNHCR spokeswoman in London, said although there had only been a trickle of people crossing the borders so far, the outlook was very bleak.

"We are expecting the worst. The indications are that there will indeed be a mass outflow," she said.

Italy prepares

Joe Paley: "They are ready to accept 40,000 refugees altogether."
Our correspondent at the Italian airbase Giolia del Colle said preparations were underway for an influx of refugees into Italy as well.

Authorities have set up special camps to accommodate up to 40,000 people.

George Robertson: "30,000 are in the open."
However the Italian Government has said that the refugee crisis is not solely its responsibility and other European nations should be willing to share the cost and take some refugees as well.

Refugees report massacre

Meanwhile the UNHCR said that it had received reports of a massacre of 20 men by Serb forces in the village of Goden, near Dobrune, on the Kosovo-Albanian border.

The massacre was reported to border officials by a group of 174 refugees, who said that Serb forces had attacked and burned the village on Thursday, after separating the men and women.

[ image: The refugees flee with few belongings]
The refugees flee with few belongings
The refugees said their men were executed, and they were ordered to leave.

The UNHCR is unable to confirm the reports of the massacre but the High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, has appealed for all sides in the conflict to stop attacking civilians.

Journalists are unable to substantiate the reports of the attacks on villages or refugee numbers as access to Kosovo is now banned.

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