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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK


World: Europe

Kosovo Gypsies stranded on border

The Roma at the border are mainly women and children

By Jon Leyne in Pristina

Concern is growing for up to 400 members of the Roma community in Kosovo who are stuck on the border with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

Kosovo: Special Report
Most members of the Roma community have already left Kosovo after local people accused them of co-operating with the Serbs in the persecution of Kosovar Albanians.

The Roma left a camp outside Pristina on Monday. They had been living there under UN and Nato protection.

But, according to the UN, they were complaining about the conditions and said they would leave because they had no future in Kosovo.

The group, composed mostly of women and children, spent the first night at a petrol station on the road towards Macedonia.

Refused entry

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) then provided buses to take them on to the border, while warning that Macedonia was unlikely to accept them.

The next day Macedonian border guards did refuse them entry and they have spent they last three nights on the buses in no man's land.

The weather here is still very warm during the day and conditions cannot be pleasant.

UN refugee agency officials are holding talks with the Macedonian Government, though a UNHCR spokesman said they didn't hold up much prospect of success.

Kosovar Albanians blame the Roma for collaborating with the Serbs and the Roma have suffered intimidation just as badly as the Serbs.

Even the UN admits that conditions in the camp where the Roma are living are not good, though efforts are being made to improve things before the onset of winter.



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