New influx of Kosovan refugees arrive in Montenegro

Thousands left without shelter
Press Advisory - Montenegro, 12th April 1999 - For the past three days a new wave of Kosovan refugees has arrived in Montenegro. "The continual flow of refugees has increased - for the past few days we have seen 2,000 arriving each day in an alarming state" explains Francois Calas, MSF's head of mission in Montenegro. In Rozaje, the capacity to receive the refugees is already saturated. Neither the Montenegran authorities nor the local solidarity networks are able to cope with the situation. Of the 63,000 Kosovan displaced persons now in Montenegro, about 27,000 are living in particularly difficult conditions; 7,000 of these are today without any form of shelter; the temperature in Rozaje falls to freezing at night. "The 20,000 people we currently are working with have less than one square metre of space each in the existing reception centres. They sleep sitting on the floor, or in tractors or lorries. In general several hundred people have to share one toilet", says Francois Calas. The new arrivals are in a noticeably poorer condition than MSF saw previously. Whilst the first group of refugees travelled by road in cars, tractors and lorries, this new wave of displaced have come by foot across the mountains in the snow. They arrive at Rozaje exhausted and in poor health after walking for 15 to 20 hours. These new displaced people hail principally from the region of Istok, north-east of Pec, from which they have been expelled. Those MSF has spoken to describe threats of violence against the civilian population there. "Worryingly, signs of tension in Montenegro have appeared over the last few days which make us concerned about the future safety of these people. We hope that an agreement between the Montenegran authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will ensure the security of the new refugee camps", added Mr Calas. MSF is setting up temporary medical clinics for the new arrivals and teams are working with to improve the medical and sanitary conditions within the camps.