Tension mounts between camp guards and refugees


Daily Record, 10/04/1999, p7

TEN British squaddies are sleeping with guns under their pillows at a refugee camp near the Kosovo border.
The squaddies’ action came after violence threatened to erupt between refugees and their Macedonian hosts.
The refugees – now effectively prisoners of war – had been stopped going to the camp’s perimeter wire to talk to relatives outside.
Scuffles broke out as heavily armed Macedonian police and soldiers pushed them back.
Within minutes there was the threat of a full scale riot as nearly 1000 refugees gathered.
The ten British squaddies who help run the camp moved in and helped restored calm.
The 2000 refugees in the camp, run by Action Against Hunger, are angry that they are forbidden contact with the outside world.
Staff Sergeant Barry, of Scunthorpe, said: “All that the refugees want to do is to make contact with their loved ones.
“But the Macedonians won’t have any of it. They are just obstructive the whole time.
“The confrontation threatened to get out of hand and if we hadn’t been here someone would have been hurt.”
Sergeant Barry, of 21 Engineers’ Regiment based in Germany, went on: “We have been sleeping with guns in our beds in case trouble breaks out.
“If a group of relatives were to arrive after dark and the Macedonians tried to stop them making contact with the people in here, heaven knows what would happen.
“Half the camp would be out of their beds in a flash and I hate to think what might happen if the guards turned nasty.
“But the Albanians have come to trust us. And we feel that we could quickly calm the situation if we are quickly on the spot and armed.”
Despite being prisoners in the country which they thought would be their safe haven, the Kosovan Albanian refugees have found a way to fool their
Macedonian guards.
One of them explained: “At night about five of us slip over the wire to let five others come into the camp.
“They stay for about a day checking to see if any of their missing relatives are here then they leave again to try another camp. If ever there is a head count in the camp, the numbers still add up.”
The comparison with Nazi concentration camps during World War Two is unavoidable.
The only difference in this camp in Macedonia is thanks to the ten brave British squaddies who sleep with their guns by their sides.
They are in the front line, keeping the peace in the camp and preventing any of the refugees being abused as they were by the hundreds in the “valley of death” camp at Blace just a few miles away.


Categories: Daily Record articles, Kosovo

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