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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK


Preparations for second group of refugees

Refugees are stuck in no man's land trying to leave Kosovo

Preparation for the arrival of the second group of Kosovar refugees to be flown to Britain were being finalised on Wednesday.

Kosovo: Special Report
"About 160 refugees, mainly women and children, are expected to land at East Midlands Airport at 1400 BST on Thursday.

A Refugee Council spokeswoman said the refugees would be taken to locations in Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

She said: "We are not expecting many to be in need of serious medical care, but they have been living in appalling conditions, and you can't be in one of those camps for long without picking something up."

The plane will be met at the airport by aid workers, medical staff and immigration officials who would process the refugees' entry details, she said.

Representatives from the Refugee Council and the British Red Cross, as well as translators and other charity workers, will try to make their arrival as painless as possible.

[ image: The refugees have suffered 'appalling conditions' in the camps]
The refugees have suffered 'appalling conditions' in the camps
The first group of 161 refugees to arrive in the UK from Macedonia under the evacuation programme carried out by the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, flew to Leeds-Bradford Airport on Sunday.

The same plane - a craft chartered from Macedonian Airlines - will be used for the second group of refugees.

The refugees are expected to be at the airport for about two hours, before being divided into two groups and taken by bus to two reception centres.

Those going to Derbyshire are expected to be housed at Stretton House, a former residential special school set in 18 acres of parkland between Alfreton and Clay Cross.

Kosovo Section
Teams of tradesmen, cleaners and gardeners have been working to prepare the 19th century former country house, which can accommodate up to 70 refugees.

Derbyshire County Council's Social Services Chairman David Allen said: "We are pleased to be able to help these people.

"What is happening to them is tragic and we will do anything we can until ultimately they can return to their homes."

The Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) will provide initial help with food and refreshments for the refugees.

WRVS Derbyshire Area Manager Helen Pearson said: "These people have had an appalling time and we will do anything we can to help them."

[ image: The refugees will arrive on the same plane as the first group]
The refugees will arrive on the same plane as the first group
The refugees being taken to Leicester are expected to be put up in an empty hotel on the outskirts of the city, which will be run by the British Red Cross.

Charity spokeswoman Samantha Fiander said that although the accommodation there would be comfortable, it was a temporary measure.

She said: "It's been called a reception area for a reason, because I am sure that in time other arrangements will have to be made, but that depends more on what happens in Kosovo."

The UNHCR is concentrating on evacuating 100,000 people from the region around the Serbian province of Kosovo to make room for more refugees who are stuck in no man's land trying to leave the country.

Irish Republic takes refugees

Flights are being arranged as air space becomes becomes available, but limited facilities mean all take-offs have to be carefully planned.

Two or three flights are expected to arrive in the UK each week as the operation continues.

Meanwhile, the Irish Republic is set to receive its first group of Kosovoar refugees in two weeks.

The Irish Government's junior foreign minister said that 150 people were expected to arrive in the week beginning 10 May, and said the precise date would be fixed when travel arrangements were finalised.

The Irish Government indicated last week that it would initially accept 1,000 refugees, increasing the total when the UNHCR considered it necessary.

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