HC Deb 08 December 1999 vol 340 c816
5. Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

If she will make a statement on progress made on the repair of damaged houses and provision of alternative warm accommodation for refugees returning to Kosovo and on the support given by her Department. [100352]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is co-ordinating efforts to provide warm winter shelter for the 700,000 people in need.

UNHCR, the European Community Humanitarian Office—ECHO—and the United States Agency for International Development—USAID—are distributing emergency repair kits and roofing repair kits in order to create dry shelter in repairable houses, on the basis of one room per family. Further places are being prepared in collective centres and host families.

Our Department aims to complement these shelter initiatives by helping to keep essential power and water supplies going during the winter.

Mr. Griffiths

While it is welcome news that a contribution is being made to ensure that people do not starve or freeze to death, is my hon. Friend aware of the pressures on the non-ethnic-Albanian communities, and will he ensure that every possible support is given to those communities, as well as to the ethnic Albanian communities?

Mr. Foulkes

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. We are concerned about violence against Serbs. We have made known our concern, which I know is shared not just by my hon. Friend but by the whole House.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

Have the Government managed to persuade all those involved to clear the backlog of trucks that are waiting at the Macedonian border? Has the essential equipment that has been held up for so long got through to all corners of Kosovo?

Mr. Foulkes

The hon. Gentleman has identified one of the problems. The road at Blace is a minor road, but it now serves as a major international communications route. That is causing problems. We have done everything possible, along with the international agencies involved, to try to get it cleared, and we shall continue to do so.