U.S. Naval Base in Cuba Prepares Tent Cities for Banished Albanians

Article excerpt

The 20,000 Kosovar Albanians offered temporary accommodation by the United States will be housed at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in tent cities not unlike the barbed-wire compounds where Haitians and Cubans were kept in the early 1990s.

Guantanamo Bay was used to house 51,000 boat people from Haiti and Cuba in 1994 and 1995, but the barracks and tent cities are no longer there.

Brian Atwood, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said that soldiers were already preparing a tent city on the base and that it would be ready to take refugees by Friday.

Mr. Atwood, who was named by President Clinton Monday as coordinator for Washington's humanitarian assistance program for Kosovo, said the decision to airlift Kosovar refugees was driven by the reluctance of Macedonia to accept them.

"Macedonia is a very new and fragile democracy, and we have as much interest as they do in preserving this democracy and making sure this crisis doesn't overwhelm them," he told reporters in a conference call. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said no refugees will be taken to Guantanamo against their will.

"This facility will be temporary, as we fully intend the Kosovars will ultimately return to their homes, and the operation will only transport people voluntarily," Mr. Lockhart said.

The relocation is aimed at moving the displaced from a disease-ridden "no-man's-land" in Macedonia, where some 60,000 refugees are stranded, to a better environment.

But analysts questioned the "snap decision" to relocate the Kosovo Albanians thousands of miles from their homeland and said the administration was being "blackmailed" by the Macedonians.

Bill Frelick, senior policy analyst for the Washington-based U. …