|EXODUS OF AGONY|
April 5, 1999
JIM LEHRER: More now on the refugee crisis. We have two Independent Television News reports, by Tom Bradby in Albania, and Tim Ewart on the Macedonian border.
TIM EWART: A people who have lost everything were today being stripped of the last vestiges of their dignity. Macedonian soldiers were surgical masks and kolashnikovs began herding Albanian Kosovars away from the border and on to buses that will eventually deposit them at the airport: Destination unknown.
REFUGEE: My life, I don't know where I'm going now, I don't know.
TIM EWART: This is the Rashiti family expelled from Pristina. They see the airlift as little more than deportation.
REFUGEE: There's no better place than our home. I don't know what the world means by this. All the other countries are taking you, that's not life, for God's sake. How would somebody feel himself if they left his home and everything there? What's -- what about life there? This is not life. This is crazy. This is misery. I don't know, have you seen the people there -- where are they living?
TIM EWART: The majority of refugees, upwards of a hundred thousand, have been trapped on the border for more than a week. Their makeshift camp sprawls back into Kosovo. What's happening there can only be imagined, and even here in Macedonia, prying eyes are increasingly unwelcome.
TIM EWART: Is it possible -
MAN: Get out of here this moment.
TIM EWART: Where are we allowed to go with the camera?
TIM EWART: The camp is a place of appalling squalor. People huddle under plastic sheets and live in constant fear of disease. Water from a river awash with refuse is all that's available for washing. A couple of weeks ago the people here lived in houses and apartments, they drove cars; they had jobs to go to and families to raise and university studies to complete. Now they're trapped in a muddy field, caught in a no-man's-land between two countries, neither of which wants them. And worse, few have passports or identity documents. The Serbs confiscated their papers as they threw them out, making it all the more difficult ever to go back.
TIM EWART: Where will you go now?
ALBINA JELADINI: I don't know. The mostly that I would like is to come back at my home and to live normal like all Europeans do because we are a part of Europe. And you are seeing here that we are living here like animals.
TIM EWART: At another checkpoint further along the border, the refugees are being refused entry into Macedonia. Thousands of them can only wait in a queue that stretches back into Serb territory. And so the agony goes on and on for the Kosovo Albanians. They are a people ethnically cleansed, dispossessed and humiliated.
TOM BRADBY: On every street in every town in northern Albania, there are now just so many people, and hidden beneath the sea of faces are ever more horrifying eyewitness accounts of Serb massacres. The aid agencies say they are dealing with a steady stream of deeply traumatized children who have, like Hekuran, been exiled and orphaned at a stroke. He is 13. He says his mother and father were shot in front of him.
HEKURAN: (speaking through interpreter) When we were coming downstairs, my mother was trying to protect the children. They shot her with a bullet in the front of her head. They killed her. They said to us, "Go to Albania."
TOM BRADBY: One of the children Hekuran's mother was trying to protect was Drena, her granddaughter. The little girl was in her arms as she died. She was picked up by Herukan's father, who was shot, then by another male relative, who was also killed. Hekuran saw it all. Drena plays happily in the day now, but at night she screams. Hekuran has Drena's mother to look after him. She says he tells her every day, "You're my mother now." Hekuran is far from alone in his plight. Dren is ten, and was hiding in the cellar of his home on the night of the second of April with his family and others, 19 in all. The Serbs set fire to the house, then, he says, shot them one by one. He was hit in the arm and left for dead. Dren was treated by a French charity, and aid is beginning to flood in, but then, so too are the people, still thousands and thousands -- today, many who had queued for up to four days to cross the border. What's changed since last week is, above all, the nature of the stories, the number of first-person accounts of massacres that change from village to village.
LAURA BOLDRINI, UNHCR: It seems that they are emptying all the hospitals, which is, I mean something really terrible. I mean how can you push out sick people? I don't know.
TOM BRADBY: Tent camps were being built here today, but the refugees who will fill them want more than a safe haven. They want their future back. They want the individuals who've done this punished.
JIM LEHRER: The refugee crisis is having a political impact on another Kosovo neighbor, Montenegro, Serbia's sister republic. ITN's Gaby Rado reports from the capital, Podgorica.
GABY RADO, ITN: The nightly TV Montenegro news bulletin. The lead story is naturally the damage caused in Serbia by NATO bombing. But there are items here you wouldn't see on Serbian TV. Tonight, for example, a western leader allowed to put his case.
TONY BLAIR, Prime Minister, Great Britain: I say to any of your people listening to this, believe me. We have nothing but goodwill towards you. We've nothing but goodwill towards the ordinary people in Serbia. But we cannot allow this brutal bloody dictator to get away with the policy of ethnic cleansing once more. We have to stop him.
GABY RADO: Moderate Montenegrins get a wider picture from their yet unmuzzled present TV but say the West's policy toward Belgrade is backfiring.
MARINA FILIPOVIC, Association of Independent Media: There is no independent media now in Serbia. Milosevic is stronger than ever, so it's a complete disaster. That was because of NATO air strikes in Belgrade, especially.
GABY RADO: The kind of students whose every instinct is to oppose Slobodan Mlosevic are now out in the square protesting against NATO aggression. The feeling that all Yugoslavs, Montenegrins and Serbians alike face a common enemy overrides everything. A Web site calling for an end to bombing has been organized by pro-democracy students.
STUDENT: The person whom NATO is trying to make -- to punish for this situation is going to be much more stronger than ever. We are all afraid what the army, which is led by the Serbian President Milosevic would do here, and that is a danger for the democratically-elected regime here.
GABY RADO: Those dangers are visible in the flak jackets and machine guns of the special police on the streets of Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital. They are out not just to keep the lid on popular feelings but as a warning to the Yugoslav army, they were firmly put under control of a pro-Milosevic general last week. The nightmare is a coup d'etats with police and army on the opposite sides.
DRAGISA BURZAN, Deputy Prime Minister, Montenegro: We know that Milosevic has been attempting a coup d'etats on a couple of occasions here, once quite openly and -- but we have proved we can handle those things. We've be able to handle those things and to repel those attacks on democratically-elected government.
GABY RADO: The 40,000 or so Kosovo Albanian refugees who fled to Montenegro in the past week have been registering and trying to find shelter. Their misery is a constant reminder to Montenegrins of the policies of their own Yugoslav president. That just adds to the political and ethnic tensions which already existed here before the tragedy in neighboring Kosovo began in earnest.