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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 23:52 GMT 00:52 UK

World: Europe

Kosovo Albanians 'driven into history'

Refugees were forced to walk the last few kilometres to the border

Some 25,000 Kosovo Albanians have been forced onto trains in the past two days and sent to the Macedonian border, joining the crowds of refugees who have got there on foot. The BBC's Robert Parsons reports from the border.

Kosovo: Special Report
Kosovo's capital Pristina is being drained of its people and its identity. The ethnic Albanians who once dominated the city are in flight.

Forced from their homes, threatened and abused by the Serbian police, they are being herded into trains destined for the Macedonian border.

They leave behind a country and a way of life which they may never see again.

Forced out of the carriages two miles from the border, these ethnic Albanians were robbed of their last meagre possessions, stripped of their documents and ordered to walk the rest of the way to Macedonia.

Watch Robert Parsons' report from the Macedonian border
They have gathered in an open field just outside Kosovo. Safe now from the Serbian police, but destitute and homeless.

They told us in their own words of the harrowing experiences of the last few days.

'I thought I saw death'

One woman said: "It was very cold and all around us there were a lot of policemen. They were shouting all around us. We were very very scared.

[ image: Refugees are safe from Serbian police - but homeless]
Refugees are safe from Serbian police - but homeless
"Then at two o'clock we were in the train. So many people it was difficult to survive. Very difficult. I thought I saw death with my eyes."

One man added: "There's not one man in Pristina. It's finished - people in Pristina. Just litter."

And another refugee told us: "The police came to our houses and told us to get out. They said they'd kill us if we didn't leave. They beat up my son. We've come here without money or possessions."

Catastrophe in the making

A humanitarian catastrophe is in the making here, the scale of which is only just beginning to be understood. Sanitation is non-existent, children are weak and starving, the elderly barely have the strength to go on.

And their number continues to grow. Not a stream now but a flood.

Ethnic cleansing on this scale has not been witnessed in Europe since the Second World War. These refugees may never see their homes again.

The Kosovo Albanians are being driven into history.

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