Skopje, 24 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says most ethnic Albanian refugees in Montenegro are still wary about returning to Kosovo because of Yugoslav checkpoints along the route to the border.
RFE/RL's correspondent in Skopje says that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been raising the issue of the checkpoints with Yugoslav authorities.
Reports from Montenegro say about 20,000 of the Serb troops that withdrew from Kosovo under a ceasefire agreement earlier this month with NATO are now in Montenegro, raising the total number of Serbian forces there to about 40,000. Paramilitary forces under the command of indicted war crimes suspect "Arkan" reportedly are among the troops that have bolstered Belgrade's military presence in Montenegro.
The UNHCR says only 1,250 of about 7,000 ethnic Albanians in Montenegro had made the journey back to Kosovo as of yesterday. That compares to about one-third of the refugees at Macedonian camps and a quarter of those in Albania who have returned to Kosovo.
UNHCR spokeswoman Maki Shinohara told RFE/RL that a convoy of buses and cars left for Kosovo yesterday from Ulcinj, Montenegro, after several hundred Kosovo Albanians had traveled to the border without harrassment from Yugoslav army forces earlier this week. The refugees were heading mainly for Pec and Mitrovica but about half of those in the convoy said they were merely investigating conditions in Kosovo to decide whether it is safe for their families in Montenegro to return.