18 March 2008 – The situation of internally displaced people from Kosovo is one of the topics of the report prepared by the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, PACE. The co-raporteurs pointed out to the limited progress as regards to returns to Kosovo and the difficult situation of Roma IDPs from Kosovo in Serbia.

In view of the expected impact of the signature of a readmission agreement between Serbia and the EU, the co-rapporteurs recommend the adoption of a strategy to tackle with the return process.

According to a Council of Europe press release, the Parliamenary Assembly of the Council of Europe decided to declassify the report at its meeting in Paris, and the co-rapporteurs were given instruction to update the report in light of the results of the parliamentary elections in February.

Honouring of obligations and commitments by the Republic of Serbia (AS/Mon(2008)07 rev. 18 March 2008 amondoc07r_2008 or. Engl.) (extracts)

“5.6.2. Situation of internally displaced persons from Kosovo

259. The overall security situation in Kosovo, lack of freedom of movement and inadequate conditions for sustainable reintegration (limited access to employment and public services, resolution of housing, land and property issues) continued to affect the prospect for the sustainable and safe return of IDPs. Minimal or no progress in returns was observed in 2005 and a decline was observed in 2006.

260. In this situation, the efforts deployed by the UNHCR to facilitate individual returns for those wishing to do so as well as to provide assistance and protection for the most vulnerable IDPs remaining in Serbia are commendable. In particular, UNHCR focused on provision of reliable information to the IDPs assisting them to make a free and informed choice on a durable solution, providing legal aid through implementing partners and promoting active IDP participation in the institutional processes. Discussions between Belgrade and Priština are ongoing since the signing in June 2006 of the Protocol on Voluntary and Sustainable Return and within the Direct Dialogue Working Group chaired by UNHCR, but there has been no significant progress in the implementation of the returns. However, a Technical Sub-Group aimed at facilitating the return process and addressing obstacles in it was formed. The Group met three times, and some progress has been noted including the joint support of the Belgrade and Priština delegations to particular projects. However, much remains to be done for the Technical Sub-Group to be truly effective.

261. The human rights situation of IDPs in Serbia continues to be a matter of concern, although the Government, assisted by the UNHCR, has invested a lot of efforts in improving the situation. The Roma IDPs represent a particularly marginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable segment of the IDP population, facing serious obstacles to access to legal protection, civil registration, documentation and basic social and economic rights.

262. The lack of personal documents represents a particularly serious problem for the IDPs. However, this problem is in the process of being solved. According to the Serbian authorities, the survey, carried out towards the end of 2007 in co-operation with UNHCR and UNDP, showed that the number of IDPs missing their personal identification cards is considerably lower in relation to the year 2000. At present, 10.6% of IDPs have problems in procuring personal documents.”

“5.6.5. Readmission

272. As we mentioned earlier, along with the initialling of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, Serbia ratified on 7 November 2007 the Agreement between the Republic of Serbia and EU on the readmission of persons with illegal residence. According to most analysts, in the coming months, a significant number of persons will be returned to Serbia from Western Europe.

273. We recommend that the Serbian authorities should develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle the issue of returnees. We commend the Serbian authorities for developing the Instruction Handbook for the Integration of Returnees. This document could provide the basis for the development of a strategy and of an action plan.”

The full text of the report is available here.