The Kosovo Refugee Protection Programme in 1999 was our largest to date
Tensions had been building in Kosovo between Serbs and ethnic Albanians throughout the 1990s, and in the mid 1990s the Kosovo Liberation Army stepped up its attack on Serbian targets.
The Yugoslav military, led by Slobodan Milosevic, cracked down and Kosovar forces began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against ethnic Albanians. In response, Nato started air strikes against Kosovo and Serbia.
In May 1999 we coordinated the Kosovo Protection Programme, which was our largest programme to date. It followed an agreement between the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and European governments to provide temporary protection and shelter to Kosovans who had fled ethnic cleansing.
We worked with Glasgow City Council, Renfrewshire Council and East Lothian Council to provide accommodation and support services. Buildings were furnished and staffed in a matter of weeks. In 2000 the focus changed from resettlement to helping people return safely or make claims for asylum. Throughout the project we worked with nearly 400 refugees.
Media stories about our work with Kosovar refugees
Our work with Kosovar refugees generated huge media interest.
In an article about the arrival of the refugees at Prestwick airport, the BBC interviewed a Scottish Refugee Council worker who travelled on the flight.
Anybody who has come on the flight today has lost somebody. These people are human beings who have been through absolute hell ... some people haven't eaten properly for over a month because food rations are very sparse.
An article from the Herald newspaper on 24 April 1999 about the first plane load of Kosovar refugees includes a statement from Scottish Refugee Council. It says:
Scottish Refugee Council will be working to provide a safe and welcoming environment and sensitive and skilled services to help the refugees recover from their experiences.
Shadow Behind the Sun: flight from Kosovo
Remzije Sherifi was an Albanian journalist living in the former Yugoslavia. She fled Kosovo with her family. Her book, Shadow Behind the Sun, joins her family and people’s history with the story of her work with asylum seekers in Britain.