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Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK

World: Europe

Aid agencies prepare for winter

Refugees in Kukes wait for aid

The United Nations refugee agency says it is already gearing up for the onset of winter in Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, where hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians are taking refuge from Serb ethnic cleansing.

Kosovo: Special Report
With refugee numbers still swelling, the agency said it would be foolish to think the crisis would be over by Christmas.

"Winter is only a few months away and we need to be prepared for that. Refugees cannot stay under flimsy tents when winter comes," said UN High Commissioner Sadako Ogata.

In preparation for the snowfall, UN and Nato teams have already begun scouring the countryside for buildings to renovate.

However, the agency has also announced that it is running out of money to deal with the crisis.

After an emergency appeal for extra funds on Tuesday, the UNHCR said it has been given a total of $10m from the United States and Canada.

And it said the European Commission had been encouraging about a further $20m

But officials said more money was still needed..

(Click here to see a map of refugee movements to date)

The UN is appealing for more host families to offer shelter before winter sets in, when temperatures fall well below freezing.

Difficult trip home

Jacky Rowland in Belgrade: UN agencies want to return to Kosovo
The UNHCR is also planning for the refugees' return to Kosovo, in case of a political settlement.

The biggest problem is likely to be on arrival, when the refugees find their houses destroyed or damaged.

[ image: On the move again - Kosovan refugees in Maceonia]
On the move again - Kosovan refugees in Maceonia
The organisation says ideally it would like to regulate the flow of those returning, but says if people pack their bags to leave, it will be difficult to stop them.

Thousands of people are still displaced from the Bosnian war, which ended five years ago.

The UN says it fears it will be a long time before all of the Kosovo Albanians can return home.

Police protection

Tens of thousands of refugees are staying in camps in border areas, where they are at risk both from Serb shelling and epidemics.

[ image: Camps are crowded but refugees are reluctant to move]
Camps are crowded but refugees are reluctant to move
The government of Montenegro says it has thrown a cordon of police protection around refugees from Kosovo.

It says it will take all necessary measures to defend them against possible attack by the Yugoslav army and Serb paramilitaries.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has criticised the UNHCR for being slow and disorganised in its efforts to deal with the crisis.

A UNHCR official discussed the possibility of introducing international liaison and police forces into Macedonian camps after rising tensions this week led to protests in two camps on Monday.

Pressure on Albanian border camps

The agency is trying to move some 60,000 refugees to camps in Albania, although it admits that will mean the pressure will mount in the Albanian camps.

Frank Gardner in Kukes: Advice to refugees is "Don't venture out at night"
Albania itself wants several thousand of its 400,000 refugee population to move away from the northern city Kukes, 18km from the Serbian border.

UN envoy Dennis McNamara in Tirana said it was not "safe for them to stay on that highly contested border". But many refugees are reluctant to move further away from Kosovo.

At a camp run by Médecins Sans Frontières near Kukes, it is reported that only 200 from several thousand refugees attended a meeting held to persuade refugees to leave.

Contact in Belgrade

Fergal Keane: "They're being asked to go South in the promise of safety"
Aid agencies are anxious to increase the scope of their activities in the whole of Yugoslavia.

The UN delegation currently in Belgrade has been holding consultations with Foreign Ministry officials, the Yugoslav Red Cross and other local aid organisations. A more detailed mission will follow next week.

In particular, UN agencies want to return to Kosovo to help internally-displaced people.

[ image:  ]

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