Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Analysis: Gypsies 'caught in the middle'
K-For troops powerless to help as another Roma home burns
By BBC News Online's Fergus Nicoll
The Roma gypsies of Kosovo are afraid.
"We are caught in the middle of nowhere," said one Roma refugee sheltering in a refugee camp.
"The Albanians kicked us out of our homes and they shouted to us to get off to Belgrade," he added.
"But at the frontier, the Serbs pushed us back into Kosovo."
Revenge attacks by Albanians
Estimates of the pre-conflict gypsy population range from 60,000 to more than 100,000.
Thousands have had their homes burned, and have fled their villages.
Because the Roma often live together in identifiable "ghettoes" in mainly urban areas, their enemies have found them easily.
The Romany Union, which campaigns for the welfare of gypsy minorities across Europe, has highlighted the Kosovo situation.
The Spanish-based group says the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has sworn to eradicate the Roma population.
Indeed, the group alleges that the KLA has used torture to extract confessions of collaboration from Roma civilians.
The group says it has received the personal guarantee of the Nato Secretary-General, Javier Solana, that K-For troops would "protect the Roma ethnic minority from any attack by extremists".
History of severe persecution
Gypsies were originally a nomadic people, who migrated from the Indian sub-continent to Eastern Europe in the first century AD.
They have suffered severe persecution throughout their history, particularly in Europe.
The bitterness now felt in Kosovo stems in part from the fact that the province's Roma gypsies often have Albanian names and speak Albanian as their first language.
News reports from Kosovo provide telling indications of the casual contempt with which both Albanians and Serbs view the Roma.
"They're just in the camp because the food is free," one Serb working for the Red Cross is quoted as saying. "They are used to living without working."
A KLA officer who said his men were actively trying to stop harrassment of gypsies was asked how many of the refugees may have collaborated with the Serbs.
"Most of them," he replied.