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Monday, April 5, 1999 Published at 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK

World: Europe

Refugees wait for rescue

Some have been out in the open for almost a week

Click here for live coverage on the crisis
Click here for map showing refugee movements

A queue of tens of thousands of refugees stretching back into the heartland of Kosovo is reported to be stuck at the border with Macedonia.

Kosovo: Special Report
Nato has begun erecting holding camps for up to 100,000 people in attempt to relieve suffering on the border.

But a BBC reporter at the scene says that despite Macedonian statements to the contrary, the border is still, in effect, closed.

Convoys of vehicles are moving thousands of those who have already crossed to the new camps.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Skopje, Macedonia: "Growing sense of fury among the aid workers"
Our reporter says it remains difficult to ensure everyone is fed, and aid workers remain unable to cross into Kosovo to help the queue of refugees at the border post.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has appealed to Macedonia to speed up the processing of refugees on the border.

The refugee agency said it was willing to take on the work itself.

Transport abroad

The relief camps were set up by Nato after Macedonia said it would not take any more refugees.

[ image: Long-term objective is for the refugees to return home, says Nato]
Long-term objective is for the refugees to return home, says Nato
The camps will provide food and medical care for the refugees, and arrange for them to be transported to other countries, including Germany, the UK and the US.

Some of the refugees have been given their first hot meal after being out in the open for almost a week.

The UNHCR says that one camp by the Kosovo border set up by British troops can process more than 5,000 refugees a day.

The huge logistical operation involves hundreds of cooks, engineers and medical staff to deal with the expected huge influx of refugees.

[ image:  ]
On Sunday, Nato announced plans by most of its member states to temporarily take in refugees to ease the pressure on the region.

Germany has offered to take 40,000 Kosovo Albanians, and the United States and Turkey 20,000 each. The UK says it will take several thousand refugees.

The first flights are expected to leave on Monday.

But Nato says the long-term objective is for the refugees to return home.

EU emergency meeting

Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, on a visit to Albania, said dispersing refugees through Europe would make a success of ethnic cleansing.

The BBC's Fergal Parkinson on the Kosovo-Macedonian border: "It is still a desperate sight here"
And he praised the Albanian Government for letting all its refugees stay.

His fears were echoed by European Union Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, Emma Bonino.

"We should not disperse people all over. We should not co-operate in any way with ethnic cleansing," she added.

The BBC's Clarence Mitchell in Kukes, Albania: "A lot of aid from Tirana is coming up to the mountains"
EU officials are to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels to co-ordinate a plan to provide temporary shelter to the Kosovo refugees.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder stressed there should be a "fair division of the burden" to avoid the mistakes made during the Bosnian conflict.

Cruise missiles pound Belgrade

In a twelfth night of bombing raids on targets in Serbia and Kosovo, Nato aircraft have hit the Yugoslav Air Force headquarters and anti-aircraft command on the outskirts of the capital, Belgrade.

Duncan Kennedy in Albania: "This wretched human spectacle continues"
Serbian state television is also reporting attacks on an army barracks and the training school of the special police force.

A Nato spokesman said an improvement in the weather had allowed the raids to be stepped up.

Earlier, the US announced it was boosting air operations with the deployment of 24 Apache helicopters and 2,000 extra troops.

The helicopters, which can operate in all weathers, are low-flying attack aircraft used to fight ground troops and tanks. They are expected to be deployed against forces shelling Kosovo villages.

Kosovo 'could be emptied'

At least 360,000 Kosovo Albanians have poured out of Kosovo since the air strikes began on 24 March.

[ image: More than 360,000 people have fled Kosovo in less than two weeks]
More than 360,000 people have fled Kosovo in less than two weeks
Nato says at this rate the Serbs will empty the province within 19 days.

At least 226,000 have crossed into Albania since the Nato offensive began. At the present rate, that will rise to a quarter of a million by Tuesday.

Some have arrived at the remote Qafa e Prushit border crossing, presenting aid agencies with the difficult task of delivering food and medical aid.

Aid workers say the Serb forces are deliberately making people flee through ever more remote crossings to hinder the aid effort.

[ image:  ]

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