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Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK


Refugees relive ordeals

Many of the refugees have been parted from their children

Kosovo Albanian refugees arriving in Manchester have spoken of the horrifying scenes back in their homeland.

Kosovo: Special Report
The plane carrying 156 people, including several young children, arrived at the city's airport in the early hours of Wednesday. They are to be housed in the nearby boroughs of Trafford and Oldham.

Svirca Ramadan, a 43-year-old ticket inspector, wept along with his heavily pregnant wife as he described fleeing as his house burned.

"We left home about a month and a half ago and had to walk for a few days from place to place."

Mr Ramadan said the refugee camp in northern Macedonia was cold and wet without many basic facilities.

Babies "taken away"

He said he was happy to be staying in Oldham, but added: "I would have been happier if we were back home. We want to go back as soon as possible, as long as it's safe."

Interpreter Naim Korenica said the refugees had all crossed the border into Macedonia.

"Some of their babies have been taken away," she said. "I heard that a baby of two months (old) had been taken away from her mother."

One elderly woman was taken to a local hospital for observation but otherwise the refugees were tired but healthy.

Another plane, carrying 200 refugees, is due in Manchester on Thursday night.

Magnificent effort

A cash hotline to raise money for the refugees has been set up by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council's leader John Battye and the town's mayor Margaret Riley.

Mr Battye praised the efforts of all the groups that had prepared for the refugees.

The BBC's Sally Williams: "Despite their ordeal they managed a smile"
"It is a magnificent effort," he said. "The refugees appeared to be a little stronger than we all anticipated, particularly the children, who spend a long time last night running around the corridors of Chadderton Town Hall."

The authority is also looking for people who can break the language barriers by speaking Albanian or Serbo-Croat.

Donations needed

[ image: The refugees are in desperate need of decent housing]
The refugees are in desperate need of decent housing
Donations can be sent to the council's Mayor Appeal or by telephoning 0161 911 4206 or 0161 911 4223.

The Home Office has given the refugees exceptional leave to remain in the UK for 12 months and says they can apply for asylum.

They will be able to claim full welfare benefits or find work. Efforts will be made to help them trace relatives and place the children in local schools.

Brits in Balkans
The first refugees arrived in the UK at the end of April, a month after Nato first bombed Serb targets in Yugoslavia.

Refugees arrived in Scotland for the first time on Monday, and more than 300 refugees settled into temporary accommodation in Glasgow, Renfrew and North Berwick.

Unorthodox travel

Police in Manchester are also dealing with nine Kosovo refugees who arrived in the city illicitly overnight.

The group, including a family of six, were found hiding in the back of a lorry by police after a tip-off.

The lorry driver, who had picked up his load on the continent, contacted police on his mobile phone after hearing noises behind him as he headed for the Trafford Park industrial estate.

The stowaways have been taken to temporary accommodation in Manchester after being interviewed by immigration authorities.

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