26 February 2008 – In a document published today, Romano Them warns about plans to forcibly repatriate Roma and other so-called vulnerable groups to Kosovo after independence. Romano Them refers to the adoption by the Kosovo government in October 2007 of two policy documents, the Readmission Policy and the Strategy for the Reintegration of Repatriated Persons, which lay down the groundwork for the readmission of a large group of forced returnees after UNMIK’s departure.
Both documents and in particular the Reintegration Strategy put the accent on the reintegration of so-called vulnerable groups which have so far benefited from a relative protection against forced repatriations on the basis of the UNHCR’s position on the continued need for international protection of individuals from Kosovo.
Several references indicate that Roma, together with Ashkalija and Kosovo Egyptians will be among the first targets of forced repatriations, Romano Them says. Both documents seem to indicate that the UNHCR’s position will be increasingly hollowed out by administrative practice. Romano Them refers to a note issued by the German Federal Ministry of Interior in December last year explaining that in future the geographic origin of a person from Kosovo will determine whether a person can be forcibly repatriated or not.
Romano Them stresses out that the main deterrent to the return of Roma to Kosovo has been the unstable security situation and their lack of trust in the Kosovo institutions to protect their rights. Referring to official reports, Romano Them points out at the persistent discrimination of Roma in Kosovo which includes their neglect in the reconstruction process.
Forced returns of Roma to Kosovo, under the given circumstances, raise a number of human rights issues, not only in relation with refugee protection, but also in terms of guaranteed political, economic, and social rights, Romano Them says. For Romano Them, they constitute an implicit acknowledgment by the international community of its failure to create the conditions for safe returns of Roma and other minorities to Kosovo as part of its mandate under UNSCR 1244 (1999).