The Age
Kosovars head home

Sunday 16 April 2000

Most of the remaining 137 Kosovars at the Bandiana army base were on their way to Sydney today, the first leg of their journey home.

Kosovar spokesman Erik Lloga said 111 were on board three buses that left Bandiana, on the New South Wales-Victoria border, about 10.30am (AEST).

They were expected to arrive in Sydney at 6pm and be joined by a family of four from Tasmania and a man from Sydney for tonight's charter flight to the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

From there they would be bused to the Kosovo capital Pristina, then taken by the United Nations to other towns and villages, Mr Lloga said.

He said there had been emotional scenes as the 111 said goodbye to staff at the camp and friends they had made in the local community.

"A lot of people were openly weeping, including the staff who looked after them all these months," said Mr Lloga, who was on one of the buses.

"Most of them have become very quiet now. There is an air of resignation."

He said five others had failed final medical checks and would be given a few days before being ordered to leave.

One family was wavering in its decision to stay but had not boarded the buses.

Others - final numbers had not been confirmed - were expected to be flown to the Port Hedland Detention Centre in Western Australia this afternoon.

Lloga said those on the buses were uncertain about what awaited them at their journey's end.

"There are questions about where they will physically go, especially those from the east whose homes were destroyed," he said.

"There are questions of whether they will have any food or money to buy food. That information is missing and that is bad."

Original article