Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK


UK Kosovo refugees 'glad to be safe'

Kosovan children take their first look at the UK from their aircraft window

The first Kosovo Albanian refugees to arrive in the UK since Nato's bombing campaign began are reportedly coping very well with their ordeal and have expressed gratitude to their hosts.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar saw the refugees fly out of Macedonia
The group of 161 people - mainly women and children - was taken to two former nursing homes in Leeds, West Yorkshire, after flying in from Macedonia on Sunday.

They underwent medical checks at a makeshift medical centre at the airport before moving on to the hostels. They will stay there until more permanent acccommodation can be found.

Kosovo: Special Report
The refugees have spent the last few weeks in appalling conditions at a refugee camp in northern Macedonia.

Rachel Rees, from the Refugee Council, said the nursing homes were a welcome contrast to the horrors they have endured back home.

[ image: The first refugees disembark in Leeds]
The first refugees disembark in Leeds
Last night, she said, many of the new arrivals were eager to have a hot shower.

"The conditions in the camps are appalling. There's a lot of mud and rain and many of the refugees arrived with just the clothes they were wearing, so they were glad of the opportunity to get clean.

"They had a hot meal provided by the people of Leeds and slept in warm, comfortable beds. They have left behind a huge tragedy and many of their loved ones.

"They were very quiet - but they were safe," she said.

Richard Wells in Leeds: A frightened little boy was the first to set foot in the UK
The group is believed to include 15 children under the age of two and 13 under the age of 12. They will be given new clothes, counselling and medical treatment if necessary.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees spokeswoman in the UK, Hope Hanlan, told the BBC the authorities have tried to keep families together and that all the refugees had volunteered to come to the UK.

Brits in Balkans
Ms Hanlon said: "Let us not forget that this is not a resettlement exercise. This is a temporary protection exercise."

Earlier, one of the refugees expressed his gratitude to the people of Britain.

Avni Gosalci, a 27-year-old, fled from Kosovo with his wife Anita, 25, and their two-month-old baby daughter Dielleza.

The BBC's John Thorne: "The refugees brought with them only meagre belongings"
He said he was relieved to be in the UK but was extremely concerned for the family he had left behind.

"We are very grateful for everything this country has done. Even in the camps, the British were very sensitive and helpful," said Mr Gosalci.

He said conditions in the refugee camps were catastrophic, with 25 people sharing a single tent.

[ image: Far from the horrors of the Balkans]
Far from the horrors of the Balkans
The Home Office has given them group 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.

This is expected to be just the first wave of people to arrive from the crowded Macedonian camps.

The UNHCR said it would be submitting a request to the UK Government to receive a further 400 people in the next few days.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

23 Apr 99 | Europe
Nato 'determined to prevail'

23 Apr 99 | UK Politics
Straw defends Kosovo refugee policy

23 Apr 99 | UK Politics
Blair pledges Balkans aid

23 Apr 99 | Europe
Bombed Serb TV back on air

Internet Links

European Council on Refugees and Exiles

UNHCR Kosovo News


Serbian Ministry of Information

Kosova Press

Refugee Council


Home Office

Leeds City Council

Leeds Bradford International Airport

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online