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Tuesday, May 11, 1999 Published at 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK

World: Europe

Albanian refugee camps 'to be cleared'

Regular food and proximity to Kosovo attracted refugees to northern Albania

Aid agencies in northern Albania say they will begin trying to clear refugee camps close to the Kosovo border on Tuesday.

Kosovo: Special Report
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says the border region is too dangerous, with increased Serbian military activity putting refugee camps within easy artillery range.

The agency will try to persuade about 30,000 refugees in camps, and 60,000 in private accommodation, to move to camps in central and southern Albania.

A BBC Correspondent in Kukes, Clive Myrie, says this will not be easy because camps in Albania are for the most part well run with good facilities and regular food deliveries.

Duncan Kennedy in Kukes, Albania: There is very little enthusiasm for people to move
In addition, many refugees who have left family behind in Kosovo are keen to stay close to the border in the hope of being reunited.

The UNHCR mandate does not allow it to force refugees to leave an area. But the Albanian government is adamant that the camps have to be cleared, and ultimately the police may have to be brought in.

Frank Gardner: Refugees at UAE camp count themselves lucky
BBC Correspondent Frank Gardner reports that, at a camp run by the United Arab Emirates near Kukes, only 3% of the refugees are willing to move south.

Resistance in Macedonia

The UN has already encountered resistance to its scheme to deal with the situation in the overcrowded refugee camps in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

[ image: Refugees in Macedonia's crowded camps are reluctant to move]
Refugees in Macedonia's crowded camps are reluctant to move
Only 600 Kosovo Albanians have volunteered to move from Macedonia to Albania, where new camps are being built to house 60,000 refugees. Only 82 are reported to have packed to leave.

UN spokesman Kris Janowski said so far the numbers were disappointingly small, but he hoped they would increase.

There was an outcry over refugees being forced to go to Turkey a month ago, and the UN does not want to be seen to be putting pressure on the refugees to leave, correspondents say.

Fergal Keane: Disorderly departures from northern Albania
Many in Macedonia 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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