Germany returns Romani refugees to Kosovo
11 July 2000
In western Europe, Romani refugees from Kosovo are faced with threats of deportation. According to Reuters, Germany has scheduled the return of about 160,000 Kosovars by the end of the year 2000, despite protests by Bernard Kouchner, head of the UN mission in Kosovo, who said that returning refugees would further exacerbate the difficult situation in the province. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that on March 29, 2000, Germany sent 160 refugees from Kosovo back to Priština in two flights. The expelled group reportedly included one Romani family which was involuntarily returned. The UNHCR reported that there were minority group members among the 3337 persons repatriated to Kosovo from western Europe, mostly from Germany, in the first two weeks of April 2000. In an interview with Reuters on April 14, Kouchner warned of a lack of regard for the dangers to ethnic minorities returned to Kosovo, and asked host countries to minimise forced returns, especially those of minority group members. Out of the 1156 Yugoslav citizens who applied for political asylum in Germany in January 2000, and the 1010 in February, 44.7% and 42% respectively stated in their asylum applications that they were Roma, according to the German Ministry of the Interior, as quoted by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia in March 2000. Many Kosovo Roma in Germany initially registered as ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, out of fear of different treatment by the authorities if they disclosed their membership in another ethnic group. These now have difficulties proving that they are actually Roma in order to avoid deportation, according to the Göttingen-based Society for Threatened Peoples.
AFP reported on May 31 that Switzerland would start with forced repatriation of 10,500 Kosovar refugees as of June 1. According to Reuters on June 1, Switzerland plans to repatriate 4,000 refugees each month.
(Agence France-Presse, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Reuters, Society for Threatened Peoples, UNHCR)