News 09 Jan 14

Kosovo Criticised Over Refugee Confusion

The OSCE said the Kosovo authorities have no accurate data about how many asylum-seekers have been sent back from the West or whether they are being treated properly.

Edona Peci

In a new report published on Thursday, the OSCE urged Pristina officials to establish exactly how many of the thousands of asylum-seekers who were forcibly repatriated to Kosovo after fleeing during the conflict were still in the country.

“Without such data it is not possible to assess how many individuals (or even families) have access to housing, education and other basic services, how many have found sustainable employment—or even how many remain in Kosovo,” the report said.

Although the OSCE said that Kosovo had made some positive efforts to support the sustainable reintegration of returnees, it also called on municipal institutions “to continue to work together to identify the needs of repatriated persons and raise awareness of available funds, including through regular outreach activities and other targeted initiatives”.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, from January 2005 to the end of June 2013, an estimated 25,000 to 27,000 people were forcibly returned or “repatriated” to Kosovo, at an average rate of 2,500 to 3,500 per year.

But the OSCE said that “approximately a quarter of repatriated persons are members of communities considered by the UNHCR to be ‘at risk’ and in need of international protection”.

“Kosovo Serbs, Kosovo Albanians in a numerical minority at the municipal level, and members of the Kosovo Roma, Kosovo Ashkali and Kosovo Egyptian communities can face restrictions in their freedom of movement as well as real or perceived threats to their security,” the reports said.

“In addition to the psychological stresses that accompany forced return, repatriated persons often face difficulties accessing basic rights and services, including civil registration, education, health care and social assistance, and in finding sustainable employment,” it added.

The Kosovo government has allocated 2,372,450 euro for the reintegration of returned refugees from Western countries in 2014.

However people from Kosovo continue to seek asylum in EU countries in large numbers, with more than 17,000 applications in 2013.

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