U.S. Committee for Refugees Mid-Year Country Report 2001 - Macedonia

Macedonia was the scene of the most volatile displacement in Europe in the first half of 2001. As of August 28, 2001, the Macedonian Red Cross said that it registered 70,728 internally displaced persons-66,871 with host families and 3,857 in collective centers. Because of the frequent movement of displaced persons to and from their homes during the course of the fighting, the number displaced at any one time could vary greatly. There were no recorded internally displaced persons in Macedonia at the beginning of the year. The displacement started in late February 2001 in northern villages in the region bordering Kosovo and intensified in mid March 2001 as violence spread to Macedonia's second largest city, Tetovo.

By mid July, collective centers had been established in eight locations to accommodate displaced people – six in the Skopje area and two in Kumanovo. Most, however, found shelter with relatives and friends. Many people have been displaced for short periods of time, frequently returning to their homes after clashes have subsided. For example, by early August, half of the 10,000 ethnic Albanians who had fled the town of Aracinovo in June had returned to their homes. Further complicating the count of internal displacement was the occurrence of large numbers of people fleeing to Kosovo-about 76,000, many of whom (an estimated 19,000) returned to Macedonia, but not always to their original homes (mostly to Skopje).

Ethnic Albanian communities have been far more likely to return to their villages after a short period of displacement than Slavic Macedonians, who generally have not returned. It was hoped that many of those displaced during the escalation of fighting in early August in the weeks preceding the signing of a peace agreement on August 13 would return to their homes if the ceasefire held.

As of the end of June, about 70,000 Macedonian refugees had fled to Kosovo and another 6,000 to southern Serbia. These numbers continued to fluctuate, however, as movement continued in both directions across these borders. By mid July, about 12,000 of the refugees had returned to Macedonia.


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