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Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 04:07 GMT 05:07 UK

World: Europe

Worldwide relief operation

Water supplies at the camps are far from ideal

Click here for a map of the refugee bottleneck on Kosovo-Macedonian border

Kosovo: Special Report
Efforts to airlift Kosovo Albanian refugees out of Macedonia are being stepped up as concern grows that thousands more refugees are heading for the border.

Countries as far away from the conflict as Australia and Canada say they are willing to receive refugees.

The US says it will temporarily house 20,000 Kosovo refugees behind the barbed-wire fences of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Government ministers from across Europe are meeting in Luxembourg on Wednesday to discuss how to handle the refugee crisis.

[ image: Nato says it wants the refugees to eventually return to their homes]
Nato says it wants the refugees to eventually return to their homes
They are expected to work on exactly how many refugees each country can accommodate.

Reports indicate 65,000 people are heading for sanctuary in Macedonia, which has already taken in 120,000 refugees and is struggling to cope.

A hastily organised airlift has removed some refugees from Macedonia - but more are arriving all the time.

The UN refugees agency moved more than 20,000 people overnight from the Kosovo-Macedonia border to relief camps throughout Macedonia where they were fed and issued with documentation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, is to travel to the region to try to improve the international relief effort.

Ben Brown in Macedonia: "The desperate and dying are everywhere"
She accused Yugoslavia of committing unprecedented civil rights violations to cause the crisis.

"It is frightening ... that this century, as in its darkest hours, should end with the mass deportation of innocent people," Mrs Ogata said.

More than 50 governments and leading aid agencies have met in Geneva to look at possible measures to co-ordinate the relief operation.

Tent cities

The BBC's Europe correspondent, Jonathan Beale, says countries on Kosovo's borders are finding it almost impossible to deal with the huge numbers of refugees.

Jonathan Charles: "The Macedonians just don't want the refugees here"
Nato forces are erecting nine tent cities in the suburbs of the Macedonian capital, Skopje.

hey will be used to house about 65,000 refugees, who are currently living in an overcrowded camp near the village of Blace on the border with Kosovo.

[ image: A refugee at Blace cries for help]
A refugee at Blace cries for help
Medical officers at Blace say conditions at the camp are deteriorating.

To alleiviate the crisis, an Israeli medical team has set up a field hospital at nearby Stankovac with a team of 60 medical personnel.

It is estimated that the rising number of refugees in Macedonia could exceed 200,000 by the end of the week.

Airlift controversy

The airlift operation from Macedonia continued on Tuesday, with 10 plane-loads of refugees flown to Turkey and Norway.

But the flights are creating controversy with reports of refugee families being forced onto planes.

UN officials said they were investigating reports that many of the refugees, who were flown to Turkey, did not want to go, and some were forced to board the planes.

Paul Wood: "The UNHCR has says the forceful removal of refugees is inhumane"
A BBC correspondent in Macedonia, Paul Wood, says many had not been told where they were going.

The European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, Emma Bonino, criticised the airlifts as adding forced exile to forced deportation.

Nato stressed that while the goal is for refugees to eventually return to their homes in Kosovo, the alliance wants to take pressure off states neighbouring the province by providing temporary homes elsewhere.

The Albanian Government has protested against plans to airlift Kosovo Albanians out of the region because it says such moves further Serbian aims.

The UNHCR says the number of people who had fled Kosovo since 24 March, when Nato began bombing Yugoslavia, is now more than 400,000, with

  • 262,000 in Albania
  • 120,000 in Macedonia
  • 36,700 in Montenegro
  • 8,000 in Bosnia and
  • 6,000 in Turkey.

[ image:  ]

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