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Friday, April 2, 1999 Published at 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK


World: Europe

'Driven from our homes'

A human tide is flowing out of Kosovo

Serb forces are expelling Kosovo Albanians from their homes at gunpoint, according to refugees arriving at the province's borders.

Kosovo: Special Report
Refugees say Serb forces are demanding cash and valuables before forcing them to flee Kosovo.

But Serbs say Nato air strikes are to blame for the mass exodus of refugees.

Marko Gasic, of the Serbian Information Centre in London, said: "All anti-Yugoslavian stories will be accepted in the West.

"The truth is that Nato bombing has converted Pristina into a hell-hole and Kosovo into a charnel-house."

Serbs 'lining the route'


Ylder Bajraktari: "The expulsions were 100% organised"
Ylder Bajrakatari, a journalist from the Albanian language newspaper Koha Ditore, has made to it the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

He said: "Serb forces came to our apartment, basically drove us out of our apartment, took all our money and then they went inside our apartment. We had to flee."


[ image: Waiting to be processed by border guards]
Waiting to be processed by border guards
The exodus of refugees was "perfectly organised" he said, with Serb police cars along the route directing Albanians to the border, and with special trucks laid on for people who could not provide their own transport.

He described Pristina as "more or less deserted", but said the refugees were from across Kosovo, not just Pristina.

"All these people have been driven from their homes", he said.

Recurring tales

Mr Bajrakatari said that the people who had travelled on foot were in a "terrible condition".

He said: "It's raining and there is a lack of food. One old lady died at the border and she had to be buried there. Another lady gave birth at the border."


Marko Gasic: "Nato has responsibility for this catastrophe"
Mr Gasic described Mr Bajrakatari as a "propagandist", and said he would have thought that the refugees would be "very keen" to get on the trains to escape the Nato bombs.

But other refugees crossing the Macedonian border told similar stories.

One man said two people had died and three babies were born during a six-hour train ride to escape from Kosovo.

Another refugee said: "They came, took away our money, valuables, identification papers and put us on the train."


[ image: A young refugee offers comfort]
A young refugee offers comfort
A man in his 50s said: "Kosovo does not exist any more. We do not need Europe to watch us. We want Europe to give us arms to fight the Serbs.

"It is better to die with a gun at home than to be here like this."

And Arden, a 17-year-old boy, said: "We are young. We can last here for days. But there are too many children and old people here.

"Unless the Red Cross does something, they are going to die."

Refugees arriving at the Albanian border also described acts of brutality and harassment from Serbian soldiers and paramilitary forces.

Nakije Kryeziu, a teacher from Djakovica, said she had seen Serbian soldiers shouting the name of a young Albanian man before entering his house.

"They shot him in front of his parents," she said.



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Relevant Stories

02 Apr 99 | Europe
Refugee exodus 'out of control'

01 Apr 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Tragedy on a massive scale

31 Mar 99 | Europe
Fleeing Kosovo: Images of the refugee crisis

30 Mar 99 | Kosovo
Analysis: The impact on Albania





Internet Links


Serbian Ministry of Information

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Nato

International Crisis Group

Kosova Press


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