Strasbourg, 28.06.2007 – The security situation in Kosovo does not allow for the safe return of all refugees, said Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights. The Commissioner urges the Bosnia and Herzegovina government not to withdraw temporary admission permits for Kosovo refugees at the set deadline of 30 June. He also says the authorities should continue to provide protection for those refugees who cannot return, including the Roma refugees.
“Kosovo’s future still holds a lot of uncertainties and the security situation remains fragile,” the Commissioner said. “I strongly believe that for those refugees who cannot return, a lasting solution should be found within Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
According to the Commissioner, this could mean either the granting of asylum, a permanent residence permit or even citizenship, which some of the refugees would be entitled to after years of living in Bosnia.
Thomas Hammarberg, who supports the similar view of the UN refugee agency, says that there continues to be a need for the international protection of the 3,000 strong Kosovar refugee community in Bosnia, and most notably the Roma who are still in collective centres.
The Commissioner said he would closely follow the situation of these refugees after the 30 June deadline.
N.B.: One day before the deadline, the Council of Minister, extended the temporary status for refugees from Bosnia for another three months, but the deadline was not extended any longer in September, putting the Kosovo Roma refugees, the main concerned by this decision, before the alternative, either to apply for asylum or leave the country.
The European Commission notes in its 2007 Progress Report on Bosnia and Hercegovina:
“Since 1999, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been granting temporary admission status to persons from Serbia and Montenegro, whose last place of residence was Kosovo. This status was withdrawn at the end of September 2007 when around 3,000 refugees originating from Kosovo lost their right to temporary refuge. A number of them have been granted refugee status or have submitted asylum applications in the meantime.”
The fate of the Kosovo Roma refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina is also mentioned in the 2007 report of the US Chapter of Amnesty International on the situation of Roma in Europe:
“In April 2007, representatives of the over 800 Romani refugees from Kosovo expressed concern about the authorities’ plans to lift their temporary admission (protection) on 30 June 2007 and return them to Kosovo where they are at risk of racist attacks and experience discrimination in access to political, economic and social rights. After intervention by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council of Ministers extended for a further 90 days the temporary admission status of refugees from Kosovo. The Council of Ministers decided that this would be the last such extension.”
Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Hercegovina: Decision on the extension of the temporary admission status in Bosnia and Herzegovina of Persons from Serbia and Montenegro whose last place of permanent residence was in Kosovo, 5 July 2006