Between 1996 and 2007, Serbia signed 16 bilateral readmission agreements with 18 countries. This includes Hungary (2001), Germany (2003), Sweden (2003), Denmark (2003), Italy (2003), the Benelux countries (2004), Austria (2004), Slovakia (2003), France (2006), Canada (2006).
On 18 September 2007, Serbia signed an EC readmission agreement, which entered into force on 1 January 2008.
Since 2008, Serbia signed bilateral readmission agreements with other countries of the former Yugoslavia. In 2008, agreements were signed with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia; in 2009, with Slovenia and in 2010, with Macedonia.
In 2010, a bilateral readmission agreement was also signed with Albania.
In 2009, Serbia signed a separate bilateral readmission agreements with Switzerland and Norway, which are not members of the EU, but nevertheless part of the Schengen area.
In 2010, Serbia signed a bilateral readmission agreement with Malta (2010) and, in 2011, with Bulgaria and Romania.
Following the conclusion of a EU readmission agreement, Serbia signed protocols “on the implementation of the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Serbia on readmission of people residing without authorization in an EU member state” with several EU member states. By the end of 2011, Serbia had signed such protocols with twelve EU member states includes Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Romania. The conclusion of such agreements with some 10 other EU member states were still pending.
In 2008, 5,855 Serbian citizens were forcibly returned from EU Member States to Serbia. In 2009, 4,105 persons were deported on the basis of either these agreements. The majority of those who are forcibly returned under these agreements are Roma, followed by members of other ethnic minorities.
In 2010, some 4,000 persons had been forcibly returned to Serbia in 2010, according to the Serbian Minister of Interior, approximately. On 21 December 2011, the Head of the Serbian border police, Nenad Banović, said that 3,222 out of 3,878 asylum seekers had been returned to Serbia, by November 1.
Since 2000, so-called memoranda of understanding have been signed between UNMIK and the governments of the host countries of refugees (see also Refugee Protection and Return policies in Western Europe). In the beginning, these agreements were to arrange the coordinated returns of ethnic Albanians to Kosovo, but increasingly they have been extended to cover also members of minority communities and, on an individual basis, members of communities which are covered by the UNHCR Position on the Continued International Protection Needs of Individuals from Kosovo.
In May 2007, a working group made of representatives of the PISG, international organisations and UNMIK, finalised a document on the readmission of people originating from Kosovo who have entered illegally or are staying without proper residence title in a third country. The document lays out the procedure for their forcible repatriation to Kosovo.
It foresees a transition period until the expected independence of Kosovo during which UNMIK will still have an oversight function and be responsible for dealing with readmission requests, before handing over the entire process to the Kosovo institutions.
These are encouraged to conclude readmission agreements or memoranda of understanding with the governments of host countries in order to assure the return of person originating from Kosovo. Special attention is given to the return of people belonging to so-called vulnerable groups including ethnic minorities.
While it is said that UNMIK, in dealing with the requests of individual governments, will still base its decisions on the UNHCR Position, it seems that this reference will be abandoned after Kosovo’s eventual independence. This implies that security concerns related to the ethnic background of a person will be no longer be an obstacle to forced repatriation.
Accordingly, any reference to a persons ethnic background in the readmission process will be removed, even though linguistic analysis will still be one element to determine whether a person originates from Kosovo or not.
Kosovo’s Readmission Policy was adopted by the Kosovo Government on 31 October 2007 and has been approved by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on 28 November 2007.
This document comes to complete another document approved by the Kosovo Government on 10 October 2007 on the reintegration of repatriated persons, the Strategy for Reintegration of Repatriated Persons.
This document was elaborated by the Steering Board for Reintegration of Repatriated Persons, composed of representatives of the Kosovo governments and international organisations, including UNMIK, OSCE, IOM, EUPT, and the UNHCR, foresees the forced repatriation of 5,000 persons per year.
According to the same document, the total number of people from Kosovo with no legal residence title abroad is estimated at up to 100,000 persons, 53,000 in Germany alone, of which 38,000 are assumed to belong to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.
In line with the policy on readmission, the strategy focusses on the reintegration of so-called vulnerable groups including Roma, but also of people with serious health problems, and just like the policy, this documents contains clear indications that the UNHCR Position on continued international protection needs of individuals from Kosovo might not be considered as a reference anymore, as soon as Kosovo is becoming independent.
According to the latest report of the UN Secretary General to the Security Council, 2,674 persons were forcibly returned to Kosovo between January and November 2009. During the same period, the UNHCR recorded 1,015 voluntary minority returns.
Since November 1th, 2008, the Kosovo Ministry of Internal Affairs has taken over all responsibilities in the field of return from UNMIK (see letter). In line with the Readmission policy, the ethnicity of the person to be deported is no longer communicated in the course of the readmission procedure, neither is the person’s health conditions. This implies that the enforcement of the UNHCR position on the continued international protection needs of individuals from Kosovo becomes even more difficult. In past, UNMIK refused the readmission of people covered by the UNHCR position.
Readmission agreements signed by Kosovo
• With Albania, repatriation agreement signed on 6 October 2009
• With Belgium, protocol of cooperation for repatriation signed on 20 October 2009
• With France, repatriation agreement signed on 2 December 2009
• With FYRoM, repatriation agreement signed on 1 December 2009
• With Switzerland, repatriation agreement signed on 3 February 2010
• With Germany, repatriation agreement signed on 14 April 2010
• With Denmark, repatriation agreement signed on 8 June 2010
• With Norway, repatriation agreement signed on 15 October 2010
• With Austria, repatriation agreement signed on 30 September 2010
• With Slovenia, readmission agreement signed on 10 May 2011
• With Czech Republic, readmission agreement signed on 24 June 2011
• With Montenegro, readmission agreement signed on 29 June 2011
• With Sweden, readmission agreement signed on 4 October 2011
• With Finland, readmission agreement signed on 29 November 2011
• With Hungary, readmission agreement signed on 15 May 2012
• With Bulgaria, readmission agreement signed on 19 June 2012
•With Malta, readmission agreement signed on 21 November 2012, in Vienna
Negotiations underway with Croatia and Estonia (state of 20 September 2012)
Project-agreements with Italia, Latvia, Turkey and Macedonia (state of 20 September 2012)
Kosovo Law on readmission, 25 June 2010
Romano Them: By force, if necessary – Minority returns to Kosovo after independence, 26 February 2008