UN Urges Kosovo to Help Refugees Return

The UN refugee agency called on the authorities to ensure that people who fled Kosovo during the 1998-99 war have places to live and security if they choose to return home.

The head of the UNHCR in Kosovo, Jo Hegenauer, urged the Pristina authorities on Friday ‘to enable the safe return of hundreds of displaced people from Kosovo’ who are still living in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina 15 years after the conflict ended.

‘It is time that the authorities in Kosovo resolve outstanding property issues and to allocate land so people can voluntarily return safely and in a dignified manner,’ Hegenauer said.

‘The municipalities are the ones who have the main authority over land allocations. They need to fulfil all their obligations and remove all obstacles to [refugees’] return,’ he added.

Estimates suggest that 90,000 people who fled the Kosovo war are living in Serbia, 6,600 in Montenegro, around 1,000 in Macedonia and some 130 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Hegenauer was speaking at the launch in Pristina of a new report by the UN rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani.

Beyani, who visited Belgrade and Pristina last October, said that progress has been made since the last report on the subject was issued in 2009, but some changes are still needed to ensure the sustainable return of people displaced by the Kosovo conflict.

‘The key to attaining durable solutions in Serbia and Kosovo lies in providing durable housing for all displaced persons,’ the report says.

Beyani also urged Belgrade and Pristina to address the specific problems faced by vulnerable ethnic minorities like the Roma, Egyptians and Ashkali, who often still live in temporary settlements without personal identity documents.

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