MSF on UNHCR absence in camps & military control - French
9 April 1999 - France 2 - Interview S. Ogata, UNHCR, S.Bolton & D. Pingaud (French)
Journalist: Over the last few days, you’ve been watching reports from our correspondents on the deployment of humanitarian aid in Albania, and also in Macedonia where there are now some 100,000 refugees. And it is here in Macedonia that the effectiveness of the High Commission for Refugees is being contested by a number of humanitarian aid organisations which are accusing this United Nations agency of not fulfilling its mandate to provide these refugees with assistance.
Valérie Fourniou, Frédéric Pasquette :
Commentary: Mrs Ogata, high commissioner for refugees, began her visit to Macedonia with a tour of Brasda camp, a camp managed by Alliance troops that is currently home to more than 26,000 refugees. There is no HCR presence in this camp, so the tour was conducted by military personnel. Mrs Ogata then met with the Macedonian authorities to find out more about what happened to the refugees who disappeared during a particularly heavy-handed evacuation of Blace camp.
Sadako Ogata : “We now have a clearer picture of events.”
Commentary: The information she was given examination needed to be cross checked. She later learned that 1200 refugees had disappeared. They had been evacuated to Turkey and Greece.
But her main achievement during this visit was obtaining a border agreement.
Sadako Ogata: “I pressed for an agreement on borders and have been given assurances that they will remain open. The Macedonian president and I have drawn lessons from the events of the last few days. »
Commentary: Borders where, since the exodus began, the HCR has been conspicuous by its absence, like here in Jajinse, despite its mission to ensure the protection of refugees. At the borders and in the camps there are only Macedonian troops:
Nicholas Moris (HCR) : “As far as security is concerned, of course the HCR is not going to ensure the security of the camps. That's the government's problem. »
Commentary: MSF has reacted angrily to the HCR’s absence from the camps and borders where it should be registering the refugees:
MSF: “We are asking the High Commission for Refugees to do its job, to do what it’s supposed to do : to carry out its international mandate of ensuring the refugees protection and assistance. »
Samantha Bolton (MSF): “There should be no military involvement in humanitarian assistance. That’s what we’re here for, to organise the assistance. They should let us get on with it. Soldiers shouldn’t be doing it. Their job is war. »
Commentary: As for the Macedonian government, it is still keeping a close eye on the camps. Its troops ensure a constant presence
Limits to working with military; the danger of camps too close to the border
13 April 1999 - RTBF - interview with Alex Parisel, MSF Belgium General Director (French subtitled in English)
MSF report on Serbian methods
30 April 1999 - France 3 - Interview Philippe Biberson, MSF France President - Rapport MSF sur les méthodes serbes (French)
Journalist: For weeks now, we’ve been hearing the same stories from all the refugees, harrowing accounts gathered by Médecins sans Frontières which has just published a report that is a damning indictment of the authorities in Belgrade. A report which has come as no surprise to the HCR which today claimed to have proof of an appalling massacre committed just a few days ago in a village in Kosovo.
Isabelle Sabourault, Joseph Tual:
Commentary: These refugees have been through the most horrendous experience. They all come from a small village in Kosovo called Medja. They are the survivors - mostly women, old people and children - and they all tell the same horrific tale. Their convoy was stopped by Serbian militia and all the men of fighting age, around a hundred people, were led away and massacred.
A woman: "They told him to go twice, but he just stared back at them. The third time they shot at him. Then he looked at our child – he didn’t say a word - and they took him away."
A woman: "They took three hundred of them. They led them into a small valley and we never saw them again."
A man: "They told me to go with the others. My mother started to cry, so one of the policemen said, leave him alone, he’s too young. I thought they were going to kill me."
Commentary: Terror tactics, families torn apart, systematic deportations, all these methods have just been described and analysed in a report by Médecins sans Frontières. The thousands of accounts gathered in Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia are clear proof that this is in fact a deliberate plan to drive out an entire population.
Philippe Biberson (MSF): "The method is always the same. They turn up at people’s houses at any time of the day or night and give them three minutes to get out. Anyone who resists is beaten. Violence is used to get people to leave, and that’s also one of the interesting aspects of the accounts we’ve been hearing. Violence doesn’t seem to be used to destroy people necessarily, but to get them to leave."
Commentary: The result is a country emptied of its inhabitants. The report also describes how people have been robbed of their identity. Before boarding these trains taking them into exile, more than half of the Kosovars had their papers taken from them, destroying any hope of return.