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The persistent absence of a sustainable solution for approximately 235,0001 displaced persons (DPs) from Kosovo continues to pose a major challenge for all concerned. While the safe and dignified return of DPs to their homes is recognized as a fundamental right both in international law and in the legal framework in Kosovo and despite long-term engagement with the issue by Kosovo institutions and international actors, returnees in Kosovo are still confronted by serious obstacles to their sustainable reintegration, including limited access to public services, property rights and socio-economic opportunities; the deteriorating security situation in returns sites; and tensions between receiving communities and potential returnees in certain areas.

As part of its core mandate to monitor, promote and protect human rights, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mission in Kosovo (OSCE) supports and periodically reports on the returns process in Kosovo, monitoring trends and assessing compliance by Kosovo institutions with the relevant legal and policy framework.

There have been some positive developments in returns policy since 2010, but implementation by municipal institutions has been neither consistent nor effective. A 2010 government regulation mandating the establishment of municipal co-ordination mechanisms, the Municipal Offices for Communities and Returns (MOCRs), constituted an important first step towards addressing identified problems in the returns and reintegration process at the municipal level. However, to date, there is little evidence that this has led to tangible improvements in the development, implementation and co-ordination of returns activities on the ground.

Of serious concern is the deteriorating security situation in several returns sites, which have seen an increase in incidents affecting returnees and their property. Frequent looting of these sites, coupled with damage to places of religious or cultural significance and occasional low-level harassment, has had a negative impact on perceptions of security among both returning communities and potential returnees.

While most municipalities have taken these incidents seriously, expressing their support for affected communities through statements of condemnation and outreach activities, some have failed to take any action whatsoever.

At several difficult returns locations, tensions between potential returnees and receiving communities have further obstructed the returns process. In most cases these frictions are rooted in allegations of unresolved war crimes or missing persons cases, although exacerbating factors such as ongoing property disputes or the overarching political situation also play a role. With a few laudable exceptions (Gjakovë/Ðakovica, Klinë/Klina and Prizren), proactive municipal support for the returns process is often lacking, and in a small number of cases municipal officials themselves openly condition the returns process on external factors, such as the resolution of outstanding property issues or a change in overarching political circumstances.

The OSCE urges Kosovo institutions to take all necessary measures to ensure full implementation of the legal and policy framework on returns, including through the timely establishment of MOCRs, the development and implementation of municipal returns strategies, and the allocation of adequate budgetary resources for returns activities. In the aftermath of security incidents affecting returnees, senior municipal officials should show support for the returnee communities through a public statement of condemnation and follow-up outreach activities. Security actors should likewise continue their efforts to reassure affected communities through increased patrols and community policing in returns sites, and to make greater use of local community protection mechanisms, notably the Municipal Community Safety Councils (MCSCs) and Local Public Safety Committees (LPSCs). All actors working on returns must send a clear message, including through public statements of support and regular attendance by senior officials at returns activities, that support for the returns process is unconditional. Central and municipal institutions should work together with the Kosovo police and international organizations to develop inter-ethnic dialogue activities to build confidence between receiving and returning communities.

Source: OSCE

October 2012

The report is available here.

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Le présent papier thématique se concentre sur la situation des personnes appartenant aux communautés roms, ashkalies et égyptiennes (ci-après RAE) rapatriées au Kosovo. Il couvre les développements ayant eu lieu dans ce domaine à partir d’octobre 2009, date de la dernière publication de l’Organisation suisse d’aide aux réfugiés OSAR sur ce thème, jusqu’a la fin de l’année 2011.

En 2009 l’OSAR soulignait déjà qu’en dépit de l’établissement par le gouvernement kosovar d’une Stratégie pour la réintégration des personnes rapatriées en 2007 ainsi que d’un Plan d’action en 2008, très peu de personnes bénéficiaient, en pratique, d’une aide quelconque après avoir été renvoyées au Kosovo.

Deux ans après la publication de ce premier rapport, et malgré les efforts institutionnels et législatifs entrepris par le gouvernement kosovar, motivé par la promesse de l’Union Européenne d’accéder au dialogue sur la libéralisation des visas, les personnes rapatriées sous contrainte continuent, pour la plupart, à ne pas avoir accès à une aide concrète à leur retour. Les communautés roms, askhalies et égyptiennes, toujours fortement discriminées et marginalisées, se retrouvent dans une situation particulièrement vulnérable.

Si les Guidelines de l’UNHCR, mises à jour pour la dernière fois en novembre 2009, continuent d’attirer l’attention sur la vulnérabilité et le besoin de protection des minorités ethniques au Kosovo, et notamment des membres des communautés roms, les gouvernements européens ont exercé une pression croissante sur le gouvernement du Kosovo afin de pouvoir renvoyer les ressortissants kosovars dans leur pays et ce, quelle que soit leur origine ethnique. A partir du transfert de responsabilités de la gestion des rapatriements a l’Etat  kosovar en novembre 2008, différents accords de réadmission ont été signés entre le nouvel Etat et les gouvernements, pour la plupart européens. En décembre 2011, le nombre des accords signes s’élevait à 15. La Suisse a signé un accord de réadmission avec le Kosovo le 3 février 2010: celui-ci est entré en vigueur le 1er juin 2010. Les accords de réadmission permettent et facilitent le renvoi de ressortissants kosovars séjournant illégalement sur sol européen.

Le présent rapport a été élaboré en se basant sur des sources d’information publiquement accessibles, sur des rapports d’organisations internationales, d’ONG internationales et nationales ainsi que sur des données recueillies lors d’une visite effectuée par une collaboratrice de l’OSAR au Kosovo entre le 28 octobre et le 11 novembre 2011. Dans le cadre de cette visite, la collaboratrice de l’OSAR a rencontré et interviewé différents acteurs nationaux et internationaux, dont des représentants de l’UNHCR, de l’OIM, de l’UNICEF, de l’EULEX, de l’OSCE. Elle a également rencontré un représentant du Roma and Ashkali Documentation Centre (RAD Centre), de l’organisation CRP/Kosovo, ainsi que l’Ombudsman du Kosovo, Sami Kurteshi, un représentant du département pour la Citoyenneté, l’Asile et la Migration (DCAM) du Ministère des Affaires Intérieures du gouvernement du Kosovo, des représentants des communautés RAE et des familles RAE ayant été renvoyées de Suisse, d’Allemagne et de France.

Source : OSAR

Mars 2012

Le rapport complet est disponible ici.

19. December 2011 – In this note the Meijers Committee expresses its understanding for the concerns of Member States who are confronted with a large number of unsuccessful asylum applications, but it has doubts about the necessity of the proposal and observes that the proposal may place human rights at risk.

Unfortunately the Draft report and the explanatory memorandum of the Rapporteur are silent on the human rights effects of the proposal. The Meijers Committee recommends that these effects are explicitly taken into account in the debate and vote on the proposal which probably will take place in January.

The note is available here.

On 29 September 2011, Jeta në Kosovo (Life in Kosovo) broadcast a debate on the issue of (forced) repatriation and (re-)integration into Kosovo society.

From the presentation:

“What happens to the dozens of people who every day landing repatriated from foreign countries at the airport in Pristina? Do they have where to go and where to live? In the case when most of them are children, who care for their registration in schools? A society deals with these people or do so only because of the liberalization of visa?

To discuss this issue, Jeta në Kosove has invited:
Verena Knaus, a researcher at UNICEF;
Vera Pula, the Open Society Foundation, KFOS;
Qylangjiu Daut, a journalist in the newsroom RTK Roma;
Sylvian Astier, from the Swiss Embassy;
Islam Caka, Ministry of Internal Affairs, or Director of Department for Citizenship, Immigration and migration in the ministry.

Before the debate, BIRN broadcast a documentary film which tells the true situation on the ground, focusing on children who are repatriated, in most cases do not know any of the languages spoken in Kosovo.”

Neue UNICEF-Studie dokumentiert die verzweifelte Lage abgeschobener Roma-Kinder im Kosovo

26.08.2011

Roma-Kindern, die aus Deutschland und anderen europäischen Ländern in den Kosovo abgeschoben wurden, bleiben dort weiterhin elementare Rechte vorenthalten. Dies ist Ergebnis einer neuen UNICEF-Studie, bei der Forscher rund 200 im vergangenen Jahr zurückgeführte Familien der Roma, Ashkali und Kosovo-Ägypter sowie Mitarbeiter kosovarischer Behörden ausführlich befragt haben. Danach gehen drei von vier der betroffenen schulpflichtigen Kinder nicht zur Schule. Die meisten von ihnen sind in Deutschland geboren und aufgewachsen. Sie leben jetzt mit ihren Familien in extremer Armut am Rande der Gesellschaft.

Bereits im vergangenen Jahr hatte UNICEF detailliert belegt, dass bei Rückführungen von Roma-Kindern in den Kosovo das Kindeswohl kaum beachtet wurde. Nordrhein-Westfalen, Sachsen-Anhalt und Bremen haben inzwischen veranlasst, dass vor Rückführungen in jedem Einzelfall die Folgen für das Kindeswohl geprüft werden müssen. Insgesamt stehen in Deutschland schätzungsweise 5.000 bis 6.000 Kinder aus Roma-Ashkali- und Ägypter-Familien vor der Abschiebung in den Kosovo.
 
Trotz verstärkter Bemühungen der kosovarischen Regierung, die abgeschobenen Familien zu unterstützen, ergab die Überprüfung der aktuellen Situation nur geringe Verbesserungen gegenüber 2010. So sind inzwischen die meisten Kinder endlich registriert und haben offizielle Papiere. Vor einem Jahr war noch fast die Hälfte der in den Kosovo rückgeführten Kinder nicht gemeldet. Sie hatten damit keinen Anspruch auf Einschulung, medizinische Versorgung und Sozialleistungen. Insgesamt haben sich die Lebensumstände nach Einschätzung von UNICEF jedoch nicht verbessert, für viele Familien sogar weiter verschlechtert.

„Die Untersuchung dokumentiert, dass die Rückführung in den Kosovo für die meisten Kinder immer noch einer Abschiebung ins Elend gleichkommt“, sagte Tom Koenigs, Vorstandsmitglied von UNICEF Deutschland. „Regierungen und Behörden in Deutschland wie im Kosovo müssen endlich konsequent das Wohl der betroffenen Kinder in den Mittelpunkt stellen.“

„Die Regierung des Kosovo hat deutliche Anstrengungen unternommen, um die Rahmenbedingungen für rückgeführte Kinder zu verbessern“, sagte der Leiter von UNICEF Kosovo, Johannes Wedenig. „Jetzt kommt es darauf an, dass die versprochenen Maßnahmen auch tatsächlich ankommen. Bei jedem einzelnen Kind, dessen Rechte und Zukunft durch die Abschiebung in Frage gestellt sind.“ Nach wie vor leben die meisten aus Deutschland in den Kosovo rückgeführten Kinder am Rande der Gesellschaft:

  • Bildung: Drei Viertel aller in den Kosovo zurückgeführten Roma-, Ashkali- und Ägypter-Kinder im schulpflichtigen Alter besuchen keine Schule. Keine der vorgesehenen Maßnahmen wie Sprachkurse oder Förderklassen wurden umgesetzt. Immer wieder ignorieren Schuldirektoren offizielle Regelungen, die das Recht auf Bildung für diese Kinder sicherstellen sollen und weigern sich, die Kinder aufzunehmen.
  • Armut: Viele rückgeführte Familien leben weiter in heruntergekommenen Wohnungen mit Plastikfolien in den Fensterrahmen und ohne Heizungs- oder Wasseranschluss. Sie haben meist keine geregelte Arbeit und im Laufe des Jahres auch den Anspruch auf Sozialhilfe verloren. Vielen ist es nicht möglich, lebensnotwendige Medizin oder ausreichend Brot zu kaufen.
  • Mangelnde Unterstützung: Zwar hat die kosovarische Regierung erstmals einen Reintegrationsfond aufgelegt und mit 3,4 Millionen Euro ausgestattet. Die Bürgermeister und Schuldirektoren wurden angewiesen, Rückkehrerfamilien zu unterstützen. Doch tatsächlich fehlt es an politischem Willen und die Umsetzung der vorgesehenen Reintegrationsmaßnahmen auf der Ebene der Gemeinden ist weiterhin völlig unzureichend. Das System und die bestehenden Verfahren, um Hilfe zu erhalten, sind sehr langsam und umständlich. Nur ein kleiner Teil der vorgesehenen Mittel erreicht bislang einige wenige Familien.

Schlussfolgerungen und Empfehlungen von UNICEF

Die wichtigsten Empfehlungen der neuen UNICEF-Studie zur Verbesserung der Situation der betroffenen Kinder lauten:

  • Rückführungen von Kindern aus Roma-, Ashkali- und Ägypter-Familien aus Deutschland in den Kosovo sollten nur erfolgen, wenn die Auswirkung auf das Wohl des Kindes im Einzelfall überprüft wurde. Zwangsweise Rückführungen sollten unterbleiben.
  • Bundesregierung und Bundesländer sollten kosovarischen Kindern, die in Deutschland geboren und integriert sind, ein dauerhaftes Bleiberecht geben.
  • Kosovarische Behörden müssen leicht zugängliche Sprachkurse, Förder- und Übergangsklassen einrichten. Die Kinder müssen ihre Schullaufbahn ohne Verzögerungen fortsetzen können.
  • Im Kosovo müssen Unterstützungsprogramme für bereits Zurückgekehrte verstärkt auf die Bedürfnisse von Kindern ausgerichtet werden, damit zurückgeführte Kinder nicht auf Dauer in Armut und am Rande der Gesellschaft bleiben. 

Zur UNICEF-Studie

Im Auftrag von UNICEF haben die Sozialwissenschaftler Hil Nrecaj und Verena Knaus von Oktober 2010 bis Juli 2011 insgesamt 200 in das Kosovo abgeschobene Familien aufgesucht. Ziel war es, die konkrete Umsetzung der Reintegration der Kinder und ihre aktuelle Lebenssituation zu überprüfen und zu dokumentieren. Die vollständige Studie finden Sie hier zum Download: UNICEF-Studie: Abgeschoben und vergessen (PDF) (Eng)

Source: UNICEF

Introduction

The Constitution of Kosovo provides a comprehensive framework for the protection of human rights for all of Kosovo’s citizens regardless of origin or ethnicity. Specifically, Chapter II provides for every individual’s Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, complete with powerful Articles that include the right to an education, the right to personal integrity, and the right to health and social protection. Chapter III protects the Rights of Communities and Their Members, where Article 57 explicitly states that such members “shall have the right to freely express, foster and develop their identity and community attributes.”

But for members of the Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities, these rights exist on paper only. Indeed, in its 2010 Progress Report, the European Commission Liaison Office to Kosovo stressed that “the authorities need to increase their commitment to address urgent issues affecting the lives of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.”

Further to that point, in a Resolution dated July 6, 2011, the Council of Europe underscores the urgency by which Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian returnees are in need of government assistance. “Persons belonging to minority communities who have been forcibly returned are in a particularly vulnerable situation given the difficult socio-economic conditions they live in, often without access to healthcare and social services, employment and education. More resolute measures are needed to address their security concerns and increased efforts must be made.”

Acknowledging the extreme vulnerability surrounding the Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities, the government of Kosovo, in cooperation with civil society, drafted the Action Plan of the Republic of Kosovo for the Implementation of the Strategy for the Integration of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities, 2009-2015, a detailed framework designed to alleviate the hardships on these communities with an eye towards integrating them into the public sphere.

An essential component to the implementation of the Action Plan is the needed (re)integration of Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian families and individuals who have been returned to Kosovo either voluntarily or through force by a host country elsewhere in Europe. With an eye towards EU accession, the government of Kosovo continues to sign readmission agreements with other European nations designed to clear the way for visa liberalization, a key element that must be satisfied to achieve membership in the European Union. As this report will highlight, the combination of forced repatriation, weakness in the government’s capacity to manage returns, and an Action Plan struggling to meet its mandate, are resulting in little progress for the affected communities who continue to suffer the very human rights violations the Constitution of Kosovo was created to protect.

Author: Brian J. Stern

Source: RADC

Date: August 2011

The full report is available here.

Strasbourg, 31 May 2011 – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published a new report on Serbia. ECRI’s Chair, Nils Muiznieks, said that, while there have been improvements, some issues of concern remain, for example the Law on Churches and Religious Communities and courts’ practice relating to racist crime.

The Serbian authorities have adopted a law against discrimination and created a Commissioner for the Protection of Equality entrusted with monitoring compliance therewith. A Strategy for the Improvement of the Status of Roma, which includes measures in the areas of education, employment, displaced persons, personal documents, social insurance and social care, as well as healthcare, was adopted in 2009. The Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, established in 2008, is in charge of coordinating and monitoring the 13-step action plan established under the Strategy, as well as the application of the law against discrimination.

The Law on Churches and Religious Communities continues to discriminate between “traditional” and non-traditional churches and religious communities. Moreover, previously recognised minority religious communities have to re-register in what has been described as an invasive and burdensome procedure. The practice of courts regarding racist crime is problematic as there are few prosecutions and the sentences meted out are usually low, mainly consisting in very small fines.

Roma continue to face high unemployment levels, discrimination in education and sub-standard living conditions. There have been evictions without prior consultation in and around Belgrade. The health situation of many Roma remains worrying and many of them lack identity papers. Very few measures have been taken to provide employment in the Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveda region where the majority of ethnic Albanians live; more than 70% of economically active people are unemployed there.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations, three of which require priority implementation and will be revisited in two years’ time:

  • strengthen the institution of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality by ensuring that it has the human and financial resources to function effectively;
  • strengthen the training provided to the judiciary on racism and racial discrimination, inter alia, to ensure better sentencing practices for racist crime;
  • take immediate measures to ensure that all Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians have identity documents.

The report is available here (FR). It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Serbia in October 2010 [Press Release – 25.10.2010] and takes account of developments up to December 2010.

ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, citizenship, religion and language, as well as xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.

Source: ECRI

Pristina, 9 May 2011 – While there has been progress in some areas, Kosovo institutions still are not creating adequate conditions for integration of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, is a conclusion of report presented today by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo.

The report reviewed activities by the central and local institutions to implement the actions foreseen in the 2009-2015 Action Plan on the integration of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in Kosovo. The three communities continue to face difficulties in access to civil registration, employment and education, as well as participation in public life.

According to the report, the main obstacles to the full implementation of the Action Plan are: insufficient resources, lack in engagement on part of the relevant institutions, and deficiencies in communication between them at the local and central level. The report in particular stresses the need to find a swift solution for those members of the three communities who have been forcefully repatriated to Kosovo from elsewhere.

“Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are amongst the most disadvantaged groups in Kosovo,” said Ambassador Werner Almhofer, the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. “More tangible action and efforts are needed to foster the three communities’ integration in the systems of education and employment, as well as promote their participation and representation in social and public life. Unhindered access to personal documents, health care, housing and property are also important matters requiring urgent attention.”

Some modest progress in regularization of informal settlements, support in facilitating returns, and promotion as well as protection of cultural identity of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities have been noted in the report.

“I welcome the efforts made so far, and urge the responsible institutions to further engage in fulfilling the commitments set forth by the Strategy and Action Plan. This is an important step in building a stable democratic society, where the rights of all are recognized and fully respected,” Almhofer concluded.

The report is based on regular monitoring activities carried out by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. It contains a number of recommendations to the institutions on how to address identified shortcomings, including through allocation of adequate resources, improved communication, and a stronger focus on problematic areas.

The report in English, Romani, Albanian, Serbian languages is available at: http://www.osce.org/kosovo/77413

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is mandated with promoting and protecting human rights. The OSCE Mission carries out periodic assessments to assess compliance with and respect of the human rights standards by the institutions in Kosovo.

Source: OSCE

Summary

•Programs to return refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes after conflict, implemented by national authorities with international support, frequently leave far too many without viable futures. The measures are often inadequate for three reasons: a widely shared but flawed assumption that the need to create a future for returnees is satisfied by restoring them to their prior lives; a lack of long-term engagement by implementing authorities; and a focus on rural reintegration when many refugees and IDPs are returning to urban areas. These arguments are illustrated in four country cases—Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Burundi.

•In each case, the places that refugees and IDPs were forced to flee have been greatly reshaped. They often lack security and economic opportunities; governance is weak and services are inadequate. Returnees have made choices about their futures in large part on the basis of these factors.

•While reclaiming land or receiving compensation for losses is important, the challenge for many returnees is to settle where they can maintain sustainable livelihoods; find peaceful living conditions; have access to health care, education, and employment opportunities; and enjoy full rights of citizenship. This may mean a move from rural to urban areas and a change in the source of income generation that has to be accounted for in the design of reintegration programs.

•Returning refugees and IDPs should be assisted for a sufficient amount of time to determine which location and livelihood will suit them best. For international organizations, this may involve greater creativity and flexibility in supporting returnees in urban settings.

•To accommodate inflows of returnees and their general mobility, national and local governments should develop urban planning strategies to manage the growth of their cities, coupled with regional development plans in rural areas that may involve investment in commercial agriculture. Linking rural and urban areas by strengthening government institutions can also provide returnees with more livelihood options and promote development.

About the Report

This report reviews the challenges facing returning refugees and internally displaced persons after protracted conflict, questioning the common wisdom that the solution to displacement is, in almost all cases, to bring those uprooted to their places of origin, regardless of changes in the political, economic, psychological, and physical landscapes. While affirming the right to return, the report underscores insecurity, lack of economic opportunities, and poor services generally available in areas of recent conflict where people are expected to rebuild their lives, documenting cases of seriously flawed return efforts. Greater flexibility in determining the best solutions to displacement and more investment in alternative forms of reintegration for those who have been displaced is needed.

Source: United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

Date: 07 Apr 2011

The report is available here.

Date: February 2011

The document is available here.

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