Magazine article UN Chronicle

They Now Have to Return

Magazine article UN Chronicle

They Now Have to Return

Article excerpt

More than 200,000 Kosovars are still to be repatriated from host countries, mostly from Germany and Switzerland. They are arriving in Kosovo in hundreds on a daily basis, but not all of them want to go home voluntarily. Some would like to avoid, or at least further postpone, facing the stark realities that await them there.

They left when Kosovo was ablaze, devastated by conflict and bombing. They now have to return to their homeland winch can offer them very little. There is a shortage of housing, with up to 350,000 persons still living with host families, including those who reside with friends and relatives. Some 83,000 residential units are in need of essential repairs or reconstruction. The unemployment rate is about 65 per cent and, although the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is doing its utmost to foster economic growth and generate employment, any dramatic change is not going to happen soon. Many returnees will therefore face prolonged unemployment, hampering their own personal efforts to rebuild their homes and communities.

In this situation, UNMIK strives to ensure that refugee returns are planned, organized and coordinated. "Mass returns within a short period of time would be counter-productive to ongoing reconstruction and development efforts, potentially reversing the enormous progress made thus far and further heightening insecurity in the region", says UNMIK's Policy Paper on Repatriation of Kosovar Albanians. "The need for a phased and gradual return is, therefore, in the interests of all who wish to strengthen current efforts to rebuild a stable and prosperous Kosovo."

The Interim Administrative Council (IAC) on 26 May appealed to countries hosting Kosovo refugees to ensure that their return was carried out in a "controlled and humane fashion". The IAC expressed its deep appreciation of the hospitality offered to the people of Kosovo and paid particular tribute to Germany and Switzerland. It also welcomed the decision of some host countries to allow Kosovars in technical institutions to complete their courses.

According to Peter Kessler, spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kosovo, more than 30,000 Albanians had returned to Kosovo between January and May 2000. Of that number, 1,500 were forced returns, almost all of these from Germany. In May, over 11,500 people arrived under organized repatriations, the most since September 1999. …

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