Kosovo Romani refugees

03 October 2000

On August 16, 2000, Swedish Radio reported that on the previous night, August 15, 2000, police in Gothenburg, on the west coast of Sweden, discovered twenty-six Kosovo Romani refugees, including twelve children. The police said that they probably entered the country by hiding in a container. According to Swedish Radio, they were seeking asylum in Sweden, and were taken to a refugee institution while their cases were examined.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed concern over deportations from Germany of members of Kosovo's ethnic Romani minority. On August 3, 2000, German authorities deported a Romani family to Kosovo despite ongoing violence against minority communities in the province. The family of three, deported from the German province of Lower Saxony, told the UNHCR upon arrival at Priština airport that they feared for their safety in Kosovo. The family arrived in Kosovo the day after a mortar bomb in Mali Alas, close to Priština, killed three Roma (see "Snapshots from Around Europe," Roma Rights, this issue). The family, who said they had lived in Germany since 1992 and had nowhere to go in Kosovo, was temporarily accommodated in a UNHCR transit centre in Priština.

Serbia and Montenegro

According to the Yugoslav daily Danas of August 14, several families of Romani refugees from Priština and Peć settled in abandoned barracks near Slavije, a square in the centre of Belgrade. They were not registered and did not receive humanitarian assistance. Danas reported that the families sold waste paper and scrap iron in order to make a living.

In mid-Au gust, the UNHCR organised a third "go-and-see visit" to Kosovo for Romani refugees in Montenegro. UNHCR Podgorica escorted five heads of families to their home villages in Peć/Peje.

As of August 8, 2000, food supplies were reportedly running short in the Kornik II refugee camp near Montenegro's capital Podgorica. Each person was allowed 12 kg flour, 1 kg beans, 1 kg sugar, 0,2 kg salt, spaghetti and macaroni for one month. There was a shortage of fresh vegetables and milk. According to the camp's manager, Mr Ross Piper, the food supply situation was approaching a critical point. According to a July 2000 publication by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 40,000-50,000 displaced Roma from Kosovo in Serbia and Montenegro.

Macedonia

On August 22, 2000, a Romani family of thirteen was repatriated from a refugee camp in Šuto Orizari, a municipality of Skopje, Macedonia, to Kosovo Polje. According to the UNHCR, about eighty Roma have been returned to Kosovo after an agreement was reached with the Kosovo Albanian leaders over the Platform of Action for Roma, Egyptians and Ashkalija, in April 2000.

On August 14, 2000, Romani refugees from Kosovo, living in a camp in the Šuto Orizari municipality of Skopje, protested against food shortages and poor living conditions in the camp. According to the protesters, the food supplies sent by the UNHCR twice a month were not enough for their families. UNHCR spokesperson Mr Momirovski challenged these allegations, saying that the refugees "receive what they need." Representatives of the World Food Organisation promised to discuss the situation with Romani refugees in the Šuto Orizari camp and to seek a solution to the problems in the camp.

(Danas, Dnevnik, ERRC, Patrin, Society for Threatened Peoples, Swedish Radio, UNHCR)

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