KOSOVO: REFUGEE ASSISTANCE AND TEMPORARY RESETTLEMENT
CRS Report for Congress
Kosovo: Refugee Assistance and
Lois B. McHugh
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Domestic Social Policy Division
The State Department estimates that 90% of Kosovar Albanians fled or were driven
from their homes after March 1998 by Yugoslav forces, with the majority leaving
between March and June of 1999. At the height of the crisis, over 780,000 of them were
in camps in the region, primarily Albania and Macedonia, two countries with little
capacity for providing for them. Another 150,000 were scattered around Europe,
principally in Germany and Switzerland, and 29 countries were providing temporary
refuge to 91,000 outside of the region. On April 16, the Administration requested an
emergency supplemental which included money for humanitarian assistance in Kosovo.1
On April 21, Vice President Gore announced up to 20,000 Kosovars with close family
ties or in vulnerable circumstances would be resettled in the United States from
Macedonian camps. Approximately 13,000 have been admitted under the refugee
provisions of the immigration law, and many are now returning to Kosovo. P.L. 106-31
(H.R. 1141), signed on May 21, appropriates more than $1 billion in humanitarian
programs for Kosovo. With the peace agreement of June 9, the refugees returned
quickly (over 770,000 have returned since mid June) and the donor countries began
focusing on temporary humanitarian aid and long-term reconstruction aid to Kosovo.
Most of the reconstruction aid is expected to come from the Europeans. Additional U.S.
assistance is expected to be appropriated in the regular foreign aid and defense
appropriation legislation. It is not anticipated that this report will be updated.
NATO estimates that all but 130,000 of the 1.8 million Kosovar Albanians were
forced from their homes between March 1998 and June 1999, fleeing either to a
neighboring country or province, or hiding within Kosovo with no access to humanitarian
U.S. officials urge monetary donations to appropriate private voluntary agencies working in the1
region. The Interaction web site lists these. See: www.interaction.org or contact Interaction by
phone at 202-667-8227, extension 106.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
assistance. At the height of the crisis, over
Number of Refugees and Displaced780,000 were in neighboring countries,
March 1998-June 14, 1999including Albania and Macedonia, two
countries with little capacity for providing
Montenegro69,800for them (see table at right). Another150,000 were scattered throughout Europe,
Macedonia (FYROM)244,500principally in Germany and Switzerland.
Albania444,200And 29 countries had offered permanent or
Bosnia-Herzegovina21,700temporary refugee to another 91,000outside of the Balkans. The U.N. High
TOTAL780,200Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
Source: UNHCR U.N. relief agencies, NATO, donor
governments, and international and local
voluntary agencies provided aid to those
fleeing the country. Since the signing of
the peace agreement, over 770,000 Kosovars have returned to Kosovo, including 54,000
returning from outside the Balkans. Humanitarian officials expect most to return before
winter. Since hostilities ended, about 200,000 Serbian Kosovars and Roma, have fled or
been driven out of Kosovo, creating a new refugee emergency in the region. This includes
The countries of the region are still sheltering many thousands of refugees and
displaced persons from earlier conflicts and ethnic cleansing throughout the former
Yugoslavia who are not included in these numbers. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
(Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo) has 223,000 refugees from Bosnia and 300,000 from
Croatia. Bosnia is hosting 836,500 internally displaced and 30,000 refugees from Croatia.
Croatia is host to 30,000 refugees from Bosnia and 62,000 from Serbia. Finally, European
countries are sheltering 128,000 from Bosnia and Croatia. All are receiving assistance
from the international community and the governments giving them shelter.
Although relief aid had been prepositioned in the area, the speed and size of the
exodus from Kosovo, beginning shortly before the NATO bombing began on March 24,
resulted in chaos and some deaths in the early days. Most refugees fled to Albania and
Macedonia. In Albania, refugees entered the lightly populated and isolated northern
province. In Macedonia, trains overloaded with people forced from the cities of Kosovo
deposited thousands of refugees in a border area that has recently seen pro-Serbian rioting
and destruction of humanitarian agency offices and vehicles, leading to security concerns
for both refugees and aid workers. Those arriving in Montenegro, a province of
Yugoslavia, faced continuing danger from Yugoslav military forces in that province. By
early April, the humanitarian situation in both Albania and Macedonia began to stabilize.
Donors provided aid to the Albanian and Macedonian government as well as to the
refugees. Over 91,000 refugees were evacuated from Macedonia to ease the concerns of
The U.S. government, the U.N. relief agencies, and many private organizations are providing2
regular updates of conditions, needs, and news about Kosovo. These are available on the web site:
www.reliefweb.int or www.unhcr.ch/news/media/kosovo.htm.
the government. Many thousands more were bused to Albania and Greece. One half to
two thirds of the refugees in Albania and Macedonia lived in private homes.
NATO and U.N. officials feared that some 600,000 Kosovars were without food and
shelter or humanitarian aid in Kosovo when hostilities ended, but conditions in Kosovo
were not as bad as expected. The first activities of the humanitarian agencies were to rush
food, medical supplies, and shelter materials into Kosovo and reopen the international aid
offices. Mines and booby traps left by both Yugoslav and KLA forces in some areas
needed to be removed. The most serious concern facing Kosovo as winter approaches is
lack of adequate shelter for the returnees. A UNHCR assessment of 450 villages (of 2,000
overall) estimated that 50,000 homes were uninhabitable. A European Union assessment
of 1,383 villages found 78,000 homes uninhabitable. In addition, ethnic conflict continues
to endanger personal security and Serb homes and buildings continue to be destroyed.
UNHCR winterization of one room per home program is well underway with UNHCR,
ECHO (the humanitarian aid agency of the European Commission), and USAID providing
material for about 20,000 homes each and 15,000 more coming from other sources.
Assistance to the displaced in Serbia is also a concern. A mid August survey of Serbia by
UNHCR estimated that 770,000 Serbs, including refugees from Kosovo will need food aid
The United Nations has issued several multi agency appeals for donations as
conditions have changed. On July 27, the combined U.N. cost estimate for humanitarian
assistance to the Balkans was $939 million for calendar 1999, including $689 million for
Kosovo related programs. While donors have pledged money in response to these appeals,
it does not always arrive or arrive quickly enough. For example, by July 30, UNICEF had
received 64 percent of funds needed and UNESCO had received 2.3 percent. By August
10, UNHCR had received 72 percent of needed funds. Shortages are having an impact on
specific sectors. UNESCO’s shortage, for example, will slow the rehabilitation of
schools. The U.N. humanitarian agencies and the private voluntary agencies which left
Kosovo moved back with the refugees when hostilities ended. International agencies are
also working in Montenegro and Serbia, as well as in Macedonia and Albania.
Because the humanitarian agencies were overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees,
the difficult terrain, and local hostility in Macedonia, NATO took over coordination of air
and ground transport of humanitarian supplies to the region on April 6 and provided
troops in Macedonia and Albania to build camps, assist in the relief effort and provide
security. The money spent by NATO is not included in the U.N. appeal.
There is no single source which can give total humanitarian aid provided by all
countries, or even by the NATO alliance countries. The European Commission pledged
NATO member states also contributed bilaterally to the U.N. appeal. As of July 30, total
pledges to the programs of the U.N. agencies in the Balkans totaled $590.9 million,
including $187.9 million from the United States, according to the U.N. Office of
Coordination for Humanitarian Activities (OCHA). OCHA estimates that countries had
also provided $300 million in humanitarian aid in addition to pledges to the U.N. appeal.
U.S. Assistance. The U.S.
U.S. Contributions togovernment stepped up aid to the region
Kosovo Humanitarian Programsafter the large-scale expulsion began on
USAID (Bureau of Hum.Asst.)$147,360,393March 24, using the emergency funds of
USAID and the Department of State,
State/PRM (Pop., Refug.&Migra.)$149,618,322and the President’s special authority to
DOD (Dept. of Defense)$45,281,000use Defense Department supplies andservices. U.S. government aid since
TOTALGovt. Asst. Since 3/98$342,259,715March 1998 and its sources is shown in
Source: USAID 8/27/99the table at right.
Legislation (P.L. 106-31). The
Administration sent Congress an emergency supplemental request for funds totaling $6
billion for military and humanitarian costs of responding to the Kosovo emergency on
April 16, including about $720 million for military and nonmilitary humanitarian assistance
and another $105 million in aid for Macedonia and Albania. P.L. 106-31 (H.R. 1141)
increased the amount for non military humanitarian assistance $447 million above the
President’s request including $100 million for resettling refugees in the United States,
$149 million in food aid to refugees in the Balkans, $92 million for the USAID disaster
assistance account, and over $211 million for the Department of State refugee account.
For more details on the appropriation, see CRS Report RS20161, Kosovo Military
Operations: Costs and Congressional Action on Funding.
Resettlement Outside the Region
In Macedonia, humanitarian aid to the Kosovar Albanians was not an adequate
solution. Fear of internal destabilization and a large pro-Serb population limited sympathy
for the refugees and local assistance was predicated on reducing the number of Kosovars
in the country. In addition, the camps were poorly equipped to handle special health
problems such as kidney dialysis. At the request of UNHCR, governments agreed to
resettle 200,000 Kosovar Albanians temporarily outside of the area. The United States
accepted approximately 13,000 refugees. Other countries accepting large numbers include
Turkey-8,340, Germany-14,689, Norway-6,072, France-6,339, Italy-5,829, Austria-
5,080, and Canada-5,438. The UNHCR program was suspended on June 30 except for
the placement of a few hundred persons needing special medical care. Over 91,000
Kosovars were resettled outside the regions overall.
U.S. Response. On April 21, 1999, Vice President Gore announced that the 20,000
Kosovar refugees the United States had agreed to resettle would come to the United
States instead of to the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as originally planned.
The Administration agreed to admit up to 20,000 Kosovar Albanians from the refugee
camps in Macedonia who, in the Vice President’s words, have “close family ties in
America” or are “vulnerable,” defined by the State Department to refer to persons who
“have difficulty remaining in refugee camps for health or other reasons.” As discussed
above, P.L. 106-31 included $100 million for resettling Kosovar refugees in the United
States, plus additional emergency funds for transportation.
The State Department estimates that Kosovar Albanian refugee admissions will total
approximately 13,000. Refugee processing is now limited to emergency referrals by the
UNHCR. According to the State Department, approximately 1,200 refugees have returned
to Kosovo, and many more have expressed an interest in doing so.
While the Vice President referred to the refugees’ admission to the United States as
temporary, in fact they were admitted under the refugee provisions of the Immigration and
Nationality Act (INA), which provide for permanent admission after a year in refugee
status. However, from the beginning the State Department indicated that it would “provide
maximum opportunities for people to return,” including transportation. On July 12, the
State Department announced that it had contracted with International Organization for
Migration (IOM) to assist refugees who wished to return to Kosovo. Quoting from the3
statement, “Refugees will make the decision whether to return or to permanently resettle
in the U.S. While the Department is not encouraging Kosovar refugees to return
precipitously, it is responding to growing interest among them to return sooner rather than
later.” The State Department will fund the return travel of Kosovar refugees evacuated
from Macedonia under the U.S. special assistance program who arrived here before July
31, 1999, provided they leave prior to May 1, 2000. Additionally, the IOM travel loan
these refugees agreed to before they arrived here will be canceled.
Briefly recapitulating the refugee admissions effort, it was coordinated by U.S.
government officials with the assistance of the UNHCR, IOM, and other U.S.
nongovernmental organizations. Initially, the Administration had hoped to fully process
all the refugees in Macedonia for admission to the United States, and place them
immediately with their relatives upon their entry here. However, in response to an
extraordinary influx of refugees into Macedonia — 19,500 in 3 days — the Secretary of
State announced on April 30, 1999, that the refugee admissions program would have two
components. The first was an emergency component, in response to the refugee
emergency in Macedonia; and the second was normal refugee processing, as originally
planned. The emergency program was intended to move refugees out of Macedonia as
quickly as possible. After a preliminary review, they were flown to Fort Dix, NJ, for the
completion of refugee processing, including further medical and security screening. Even
before the signing of the peace agreement, this segment of the refugee admissions program
was being phased out.
The Kosovar Albanians coming here were determined to be refugees under the INA,
and to be otherwise admissible on medical and other grounds. In conformance with
international law, the INA defines a “refugee” as a person who is fleeing “because of
persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality,
membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” (§101(a)(42)). The annual
refugee admission numbers and their allocation among refugee groups are determined at
the start of each fiscal year by the President after consultation with the Congress (INA,
§207). The INA also includes a provision for refugee emergencies that has been used only
three times since the refugee provisions were adopted in 1980. If the President determines
after appropriate consultation with Congress that an unforeseen emergency refugee
situation exists and that the admission of the refugees is justified by grave humanitarian
concerns or is otherwise in the national interest, he may specify an additional number of
refugees to be admitted during the succeeding 12-month period. The Administration
An IOM application form can be obtained by calling 1-800-748-4521. Information on the return3
program is available at the IOM website: www.iom.int/iom/kosovo/index.html.
consulted with Congress regarding the addition of up to 20,000 numbers for the Kosovar
Albanians to the existing FY1999 refugee admissions ceiling. The final FY1999 ceiling was
91,000, of which 61,000 was allocated to Europe—including the former Yugoslavia, the
former Soviet Union, and 13,000 numbers allocated to Kosovar refugees pursuant to the4
emergency consultation with Congress.
In a related development, on June 8 the Administration announced the expansion of
its existing grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to include Kosovar nationals in
the United States as of June 8, 1999. TPS is blanket temporary relief from deportation for
aliens fleeing dangerous situations and is available under the INA at the discretion of the
Attorney General. Previously, TPS had been granted to Kosovars who were here as of5
June 9, 1998, effective through June 30, 1999. This date has now been extended until June
Reconstruction of Kosovo 6
Security Council Resolution 1244 of June 10, 1999, made the United Nations
responsible for civil administration and humanitarian aid in Kosovo. The U.N. Secretary
General named Bernard Kouchner of France as U.N. administrator. The U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees will be responsible for humanitarian activities, the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for institution building, and the
European Union for Reconstruction. The European Union has established an Agency for
Reconstruction with a website (www.seerecon.org).
The European Commission has estimated that it will cost 1 to 1.5 billion euros (1.1
euros per $) to rebuild Kosovo over the next 3 years. Other estimates range from $1.5 to
$5 billion. Most reconstruction aid is expected to be provided by the European
governments. The European Union has announced that it will contribute 500 to 700
million euros per year over the next 3 years. One controversy arising among donors
already is how much aid will go to Serbia, which was heavily damaged by NATO bombing.
The United States and some governments want to limit assistance to Serbia to
humanitarian aid only as long as the current regime remains in power. Other, primarily
European, donors insist that the entire region must be developed to ensure the success of
rebuilding Kosovo. A recent World Bank study concluded that the countries adjacent to
Kosovo would require $1.8 billion in economic aid this year alone to offset the costs and
economic losses of the refugee influx.
Appropriations for the U.S. contribution to post peace agreement humanitarian and
reconstruction aid will be appropriated in the FY2000 foreign aid and defense legislation.
For more information, see CRS Report 98-668, Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy:4
Facts and Issues, by Joyce Vialet.
For more information, see CRS Report 98-759, Immigration: Temporary Protected Status5
Background and Issues, by Ruth Ellen Wasem.
For more information, see the Kosovo reconstruction website: www.seerecon.org.6