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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK


World: Europe

The refugees who remained

An ethnic Albanian walks past Yugoslav soldiers in Kosovo

By Jacky Rowland in Pristina, Kosovo

Many displaced Kosovo Albanian refugees have settled in other parts of Kosovo, reportedly without harassment from the Serbian security forces.

Kosovo: Special Report
These examples stand in stark contrast to persistent reports from refugees arriving in Macedonia and Albania of serious human rights abuses committed in Kosovo.

In the village of Svetlje in northern Kosovo, hundreds of young Albanian men can be seen wandering around or sitting on the grass.

They belong to a group of about 2,000 refugees who have settled in Svetlje after weeks on the road in northern Kosovo.

Degrees of freedom

At the beginning of the Nato bombing campaign, the refugees fled their homes in the Podujevo region.

Some of them were told to leave by the police; others left because they were afraid.

They worked their way south towards Pristina where some of them were allowed to stay.

Then, according to the refugees, the police opened up a corridor for them, allowing them to move northward again. Some of them came to rest in Svetlje.

The refugees say the security forces leave them alone, even though there are clearly supporters of the Kosovo Liberation Army in their midst.

"The police come here only to sell us cigarettes," they said.

No evidence of Nato allegations

Meanwhile, in the south we were unable to find any evidence of the tens of thousands of refugees who Nato alleges are being kept here by the security forces near the town of Urosevac.

One Kosovo Albanian man told us he drove his horse and cart from his village to the town every day, and has not seen large numbers of refugees in the area.

He and his family continue to live in their village, while Serbs live in the village next door.

These stories stand in sharp contrast to the testimonies of massacres heard from many refugees arriving in Albania and Macedonia, and they suggest a far more complex picture of refugee movements in Kosovo and the behaviour of the security forces.



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