22 Januar 2011 – In its annual world report, Human Rights Watch notes, that the situation of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians remains issue of concern. The organisation criticises the ongoing forced repatriation of persons belonging to these communities.

Extracts:

Protection of Minorities

Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians continued to face persistent discrimination—particularly in housing and access to public services—and the highest unemployment, school dropout, and mortality rates in Kosovo.

Following an accidental fire in January in their social housing apartments in Plementina, approximately 250 Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians were forced to move to a makeshift camp in town without electricity and consistent access to running water. During the summer there was a water shortage at the camp. At this writing repairs to their apartments had yet to be completed and they remained in the temporary camp.

Tensions between Serbs and Albanians in northern Kosovo intensified in August, after Kosovo authorities occupied border stations on the Serbia border. Serbs in northern Kosovo held blockades and protests that persisted until November, with one fatality, a Kosovo police officer killed by Serb protestors in a border skirmish in late July. In September sixteen Serbs and four peacekeepers from the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) were injured in a confrontation over Serb blockades near border crossings.

Local prosecutors received reports of 60 inter-ethnic incidents during the first nine months of 2011, according to the Kosovo prosecutor’s office. Reports from the UN Mission in Kosovo indicated that although most were low-level incidents, including vandalism at religious sites in January and February, they included a number of serious assaults and murders.

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Return of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons

In March UNHCR reported that Serbia and Kosovo produced the highest number of asylum applicants in “industrialized” countries in 2010. The trend was attributed to the EU visa liberalization with Serbia and the economic problems and discrimination that minorities face in Kosovo. Most claims were lodged in Europe. According to UNHCR, many claimants were Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians from Kosovo.  Almost all were rejected.

UNHCR Kosovo registered a total of 695 voluntary minority returns in the first seven months of the year, a decline from the peak in 2010: 237 Serb, 76 Roma, 187 Ashkali and Egyptian, 36 Bosniak, 68 Gorani, 12 Albanian (to Serbian majority areas, mainly Mitrovica), and 7 Montenegrins.

Deportations of Kosovars from Western Europe continued, with little assistance for returnees once in Kosovo. According to UNHCR, 1,334 Kosovars were deported from Western Europe during the first seven months of 2011, including 336 people to areas where they were in a minority: 168 Roma, 76 Ashkali, 5 Egyptians, 22 Bosniaks, 8 Gorani, 3 Turks, 16 Albanians, and 38 Serbs.

Deportations continued to disproportionately impact Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities, with most returnees living in informal settlements and lacking basic utilities such as running water and electricity. The UN Children’s Fund reported in August that most Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian children returned to Kosovo were now on the national registry, giving them a legal right to access education and other social services. Three-quarters still do not attend school due to poverty, curriculum differences, and language barriers.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which hosts the largest number of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians in Germany, suspended forced returns of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians for the winter months of 2010 and 2011, due to concerns about their safety in Kosovo. Forced returns from North Rhine-Westphalia resumed in April 2011, although more nuanced assessments introduced in September 2010 meant that school-age children were less likely to be deported.

Activists and Roma leaders voiced concerns in March and April 2011 about lack of treatment for poisoning for most former inhabitants of a lead-contaminated camp in Mitrovica that closed in October 2010. A similar lead-contaminated camp at Osterode remained open as approximately 20 families remaining there feared violence and discrimination if they returned to their former homes in southern Mitrovica. In July 2011 the authorities in north Mitrovica reached an agreement with Mercy Corps and the European Commission to provide land for homes for these families.

Source: Human Rights Watch 

The full document is available here.