European Countries Should Stop the Forcible Returns of Roma to Kosovo, Says Amnesty International

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302,
Laura Spann: lspann@aiusa.org

 

European Countries Should Stop the Forcible Returns of Roma to Kosovo, Says Amnesty International

WASHINGTON - European Union (EU)
countries should end the forcible return of Roma and other minorities to
Kosovo, Amnesty International said in a new report, No
welcome anywhere: Stop the forcible return of Roma to Kosovo
,
 published today.

“EU countries risk violating international
law by sending back people to places where they are at risk of persecution,
or other serious harm," said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s
expert on Kosovo. "The EU should instead continue to provide international
protection for Roma and other minorities in Kosovo until they can return
there safely."

 The report details how Roma
and members of other minority communities, including children, are forcibly
returned to Kosovo often with nothing but the clothes they are wearing,
to face the possibility of continuing discrimination and violence.

“The Kosovo authorities must also ensure that Roma and other minorities
can return voluntarily and reintegrate fully in society," said Jones.

Many are picked up by the police in the
early hours of the morning, and – with little time to gather their belongings
– are often sent back with only the clothes they are wearing.

Few receive any assistance on their return to Kosovo, meaning many also
face problems in obtaining access to education, healthcare, housing and
social benefits.

Very few Roma are able to find work, with unemployment levels reaching
97 percent. Roma communities are twice as likely as other ethnic groups
to be among the 15 percent of Kosovo’s population who live in extreme
poverty.

Inter-ethnic violence continues while discrimination against Roma in Kosovo
is widespread and systematic compounded by their perceived association
with Kosovo Serbs. Largely Serbian-speaking and often living in Serbian
areas of Kosovo, the Roma are still perceived to be allied with the Serbian
community.    

“Despite recent measures introduced by the Kosovo government aiming to
improve conditions for reception and reintegration of returnees, the authorities
do not have the funding, capacity, resources or political will to ensure
a sustainable return for them,” said Jones.

It has been estimated that around 50 percent of forcible returnees will
leave Kosovo again.  These forcible returns are taking place under
bilateral agreements negotiated, or under negotiation, between the Kosovo
authorities and EU member states and Switzerland.

It has been reported that more than 10,000 Roma will be returned to Kosovo
from Germany alone.

While genuinely voluntary returns must not be excluded, Amnesty International
is concerned by reports that people agreed to go back only under the threat
of forcible return.

“Until the Kosovo authorities are capable of ensuring the fundamental
human rights of Roma and other minority communities, including Serbs and
minority Albanians, they will return to face a climate of violence and
discrimination,” Jones said. “Until then, the international community
is obliged to provide them with protection.”

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