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Kosovo: UNHCR reports no major crossings of civilians from FYR of Macedonia

Kosovo: UNHCR reports no major crossings of civilians from FYR of Macedonia

There have been no major crossings of civilians from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into Kosovo over the past two days, officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

A spokeswoman for the agency said in Pristina that some 300 people had reportedly crossed into Kosovo yesterday, mainly coming from the Kumanovo area, where shelling had continued throughout the day. Spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort noted that some refugees had fled the directly affected villages out of fear, while others had left as a precautionary measure.

A total of 8,076 people had crossed the border since the latest round of fighting in the FYR of Macedonia started on 3 May, the spokeswoman said. Due to lack of documents, more than 3,000 had taken the so-called "unofficial" border crossing. Many of them had reported having been stopped by Macedonian forces and asked for a contribution in money or gold before a crossing could be ensured. There were also reports of roadblocks set up to stop the flight.

"UNHCR remains extremely concerned about the well-being of the civilian population who remain in the area of conflict," said Eric Morris, UNHCR Special Envoy to the former Yugoslavia and Albania. "It also remains concerned about reports on difficulties of coming across the border." He encouraged all parties to allow freedom of movement for those who are fleeing out of fear of becoming the victim of violence.

According to UNHCR, more than 16,000 people have arrived in Kosovo from the FYR of Macedonia since fighting began in March.