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Friday, April 23, 1999 Published at 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK

World: Europe

Aid reaches stranded refugees

Waiting in no-mans land to cross into Macedonia

Relief aid has finally reached several thousand Kosovo refugees who were left stranded in a snowbound village after Macedonian police turned back truckloads of supplies.

Kosovo: Special Report
Aid workers described conditions in the mountain hamlet of Malina as medieval, with up to 100 people crammed into every house.

Others have been sheltering in barns and stables, huddled together alongside farm animals.

(Click here for a map showing refugee movements)

Macedonia border guards this week repeatedly refused to allow convoys through to the freezing refugees. They said the route crossed some 50 metres of Yugoslav territory and they could not guarantee safety.

UK Liberal Democrat Paddy Ashdown: There is real worry about the fragility of Macedonia
But the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that a full convoy of blankets, food and water finally managed to get through on Thursday.

The World Food Programme (WFP) says up to 15,000 more refugees may be heading for Malina and other remote border crossings.

Extra funds

The United Nations has asked donor countries for additional funds to provide shelter and food for the growing number of refugees from Kosovo.

[ image: Few refugees are entering Albania at the moment]
Few refugees are entering Albania at the moment
The UN said an extra $625m was needed for the refugees, whose numbers were expected to reach almost one million by the end of June.

The head of the UNHCR, Sadako Ogata, said she was concerned that with air strikes continuing, the outflow of refugees was accelerating, and that Nato action was affecting civilians in Serbia.

Albania criticised

The UNHCR has criticised the Albanian authorities for forcibly removing Kosovo refugees from camps near the border against their will.

[ image: More than 100,000 refugees are in the Kukes area]
More than 100,000 refugees are in the Kukes area
Relatively few refugees are crossing into Albania at present, but the Albanian authorities say those near the border had to move south to bring them out of the range of Serb guns and make more room for new arrivals.

UNHCR spokesman Ray Wilkinson said all movement should be voluntary and refugees should be encouraged rather than forced to go.

Albania is currently giving shelter to almost 400,000 refugees and the government says it's willing to take in every refugee that arrives in the country.

Montenegro panic

In northern Montenegro, there are growing concerns over the safety of refugees.

Yugoslav federal troops are setting up their own checkpoints alongside Montenegrin posts, according to the UN.

The UNHCR fears this may prevent displaced people from moving into Montenegro.

The presence of troops is said to be causing widespread panic, and 2,000 displaced Kosovars have now left the Kosovo-Montenegro border for Albania.

[ image:  ]

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