MSF calls on Mrs Sadako Ogata to take action

Skopje - The international medical relief organisation MSF today called on Mrs Sadako Ogata to ensure that the UNHCR takes full responsibility for the Kosovo refugees and not just for those in the NATO refugee camps. The UNHCR must ensure that it fulfils its mandate to fully protect and assist the refugees in accordance with international refugee standards. MSF is extremely concerned that the minimum standards for the assistance and protection of refugees have been ignored for the Kosovo refugees. "Too many innocent civilians are suffering from the conflict in Yugoslavia. The least we can do is to take proper care of the people who escape" said Dr. Lex Winkler, Director General of MSF. "This means that the UNHCR must take on its full responsibilities to assist and protect these people." During the past couple of weeks, refugees were left for days with no assistance in difficult conditions at the border. Recently, at the border in Blace, when refugees were put into buses and transported away, there was no permanent UNCHR presence to monitor the number and destination of buses or refugees. The systematic monitoring of new arriving refugees is still not taking place. Many refugees are not registered. Without registration, refugees are not individuals and have no rights and families cannot be reunified. No names means that numbers of refugees are easy to manipulate and assistance is difficult to monitor (difficult to keep track of who has had what). Families were and still are being separated and transported to camps and to other countries - sometimes without consent - and without information about each others whereabouts. Although heavy logistical assistance has been useful, NATO is first and foremost a military organisation which is currently involved in the conflict and it is not a humanitarian actor. NATO is neither responsible nor able to co-ordinate humanitarian relief activities for refugees - nor should it be. Protection and assistance for refugees is the responsibility of the UNHCR. The UNHCR must take responsibility for the refugees in the NATO refugee camps.