June 14, 1998 - Vlora
Kuka, 10, from Popoic in Serbia's Kosovo Province, weeps after a car arrived
to take her and her family off a mountain which they had crossed to enter
Yesterday and today I ran into groups of refugees stumbling down the mountain separating Albania from Kosovo. They were tired, the children on the verge of tears, the women holding their pain back but itís written in their faces and the men grimly trying to hold the families together. Each day I got out of my car and gave it to the refugees to take down the mountain until the UNHCR could send a vehicle to reach them. The rain has made the road nearly impassable, itís the slickest mud Iíve ever seen and trucks could easily slide out of control and tumble off the off-kilter track and down the mountain. The humanitarian aid agencies leave their vehicles at the bottom and wait for the refugees to come down. I feel real bad for the refugees and I do what I can to ease their plight.
The story seems to be escalating instead of down sizing. I find that strange as the number of refugees crossing into Albania has always been a trickle rather than a flood. I think there are a number of reasons. The first is although there are many displaced people in Kosovo, the population isnít fleeing to Albania or Macedonia but rather to relativeís homes in Kosovo. So the UNHCR is reporting out of Pristina the numbers of refugees, but we donít see them here. Secondly, the Serbs are being pretty hard core about handing out visas so it seems that many news organizations are trying to report the story from Albania, which isnít where the story is at all. Iím not saying that the refugees who are coming across arenít important, of course they are, but the story is in Kosovo, not Albania.
This leads to irresponsible reporting, not because there are bad reporters here but rather because the pressure from the home office to produce SOMETHING takes its toll. Today a TV company sent pictures of a checkpoint in Bajran Curri of police checking passing cars for weapons. This has absolutely nothing to do at all with the situation in Kosovo and everything to do with the disarmament of the population from last yearís unrest, but Iím pretty sure that distinction wasnít drawn in the piece which was broadcast.
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