On 2 December, the French Minister of Immigration, Eric Besson, and the Interior Minister of Kosovo, Zenun Pajaziti, announced the signature of a bilateral readmission agreement between the two countries. By signing this agreement, France expands the list of countries which make use of the Kosovo authorities’ need for support in deterring persons from Kosovo from seeking asylum.

This perspective is particularly worrisome. According to many observers, Kosovo has indeed yet to prove its ability to respect democratic principles and human rights. In its last country report, the European Commission, for instance, states that the living conditions of most vulnerable communities in Kosovo have not improved, and that the Roma and related groups continue to be highly marginalized.

The US State Department has pointed out the persistence of ethnic tensions, as well as of official and societal discrimination which affects in particular Kosovo Serbs, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians from Kosovo [1].

During his visit in March, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, noted that Kosovo is “still struggling to come to terms with the consequences of the armed conflict” and that ethnic minorities, in particular Roma, are subject to severe discrimination in all spheres of society. On December 2, the Commissioner warned the European states: “The time simply is not right for returns in general, let alone forced returns” [2].
The Council of Europe expert group on Roma and Travellers MG-S-Rom has warned that with the forced repatriation of Roma “new returns to this region would jeopardize the current authorities’ efforts to integrate the domestic Roma population and Kosovo Roma asylum seekers and refugees already present on their territory” and induce secondary displacement.

The UNHCR’s new “guidelines for assessing the international protection needs of individuals from Kosovo” of November 9, 2009 [3] are very explicit. The UNHCR notes that the situation of ethnic minorities has not improved over the previous period, and that certain groups, including Serbs and Kosovo Albanians in a minority situation as well as Roma should be granted international protection or, at least, subsidiary protection.

This situation is well-known to French authorities: On its website, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs notes: “Even as we notice that the situation has calmed down, several inter-ethnic incidents have been reported, over the last weeks, around Mitrovica, where the tension between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians remains the strongest. In addition, the Serbian weekly demonstrations against the independence keep a certain momentum and remain the preferred playground of radicals. The situation could thus deteriorate very rapidly.” [4].

This is why we strongly condemn the conclusion of a readmission agreement between France and Kosovo. If the right to return is guaranteed by international law, the forced return of persons to a country/territory where they risk being exposed to degrading treatment or acts of violence is a potential violation of human rights. Roma are particularly affected by this threat. We urge the French Government to ensure that they are protected as part of a tradition of asylum, which is rooted in the Geneva Convention and in an alleged “supermarket logic,” in the very inopportune wording of the French Minister of Immigration.

We therefore call on the parliamentarians to oppose the ratification of this bilateral agreement as long as the international organizations present in Kosovo do not witness a radical improvement of the political, economic and social situation.

 December 10, 2009

Signatories:

ABCR (association Biterroise contre le racisme)

Appona 68

AREAS – Gens du voyage et Roms migrants

ASAV

Chachipe

Association Ethno-Savannah

Association pour la mémoire de l’internement et de la déportation tsigane (AMIDT)

Association PROCOM

Association Samudaripen

Association TERNIKANO BERNO – Cercle de Jeunes

ATMF

Cimade

Fnasat

Gisti

Hors la Rue

Mrap

Rencontres Tsiganes à Marseille

RESF

Section syndicale CGT Insee – Auvergne

Union des associations latino-américaines en France
[1] “2008 Human Rights Report: Kosovo, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, February 25, 2009

[2] “Kosovo: ‘This is not the time to make returns,” said Commissioner for Human Rights, Strasbourg, December 2, 2009

[3] “Elegibility UNHCR’s guidelines for assessing the international protection needs of individuals from Kosovo, UNHCR, 9 November 2009 HCR/EG/09/01

[4] “Security” tab of the “country record” Kosovo Site http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr