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Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK

World: Europe

Refugees refuse to move to Albania

More than 240,000 refugees have crossed into Macedonia

A scheme to ease overcrowding in refugee camps in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is running into resistance from the people it is intended to help.

Kosovo: Special Report
The UN refugee agency says few Kosovo Albanians are volunteering to move from Macedonia to Albania, where new camps are being built.

Those camps are being designed to take up to 60,000 people, but only 600 have said they are willing to transfer to Albania, and only 82 are reported to have packed their bags.

UN spokesman Kris Janowski said so far the numbers were disappointingly small.

Fergal Keane reports from Kukes, Macedonia
"We've seen very little willingness among very few people, considering the size of the population in the camps, to go, but perhaps it will change. We'll see."

The BBC's correspondent in Geneva, Claire Doole, says that after the outcry over forced departures to Turkey a month ago, the UN cannot be seen to be putting pressure on the refugees to leave.

[ image: Many do not want to start another journey]
Many do not want to start another journey
Many are said to be reluctant to embark on yet another journey and to miss an opportunity to fly out to Western Europe and the United States.

The UK Defence Secretary, George Robertson, announced on Monday that 1,000 British troops currently in Macedonia would be sent to Albania in order to set up the new refugee camps there.

He said a further 200 troops would be sent to Albania from the UK.

Since last Wednesday, few refugees have crossed into Macedonia, but correspondents say this brief respite is unlikely to last.

Fears over refugee influx

Macedonia has appealed for urgent financial aid from the West to help it cope with the economic problems caused by the Kosovo conflict and the influx of refugees.

The Macedonian Finance Minister, Boris Stojmenov, told a conference on Balkan reconstruction taking place in northern Greece on Monday that his country was suffering a catastrophic decline in trade and growth.

He said the refugee crisis had pushed the economy to the brink. The conference is being attended by political leaders and officials from a number of Balkan countries and more than 500 business representatives.

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