Roma and other minorities forcibly sent back to Kosovo from Switzerland after the Kosovan war ended are not being cared for as set out by a 2009 agreement between the countries, says a just-published report.
The findings, published by the Society for Threatened Peoples, state that although Kosovo’s promise to protect minorities like the Roma “is down on paper, it is not being practised”.
The report also declares Kosovo “anything but a safe country,” especially for minority groups, for whom there is no legal protection. And, due to its bad economic situation and poor infrastructure, Kosovo is not in a good position to ensure the successful re-integration of minorities, say the findings.
The Society for Threatened Peoples has therefore called on the Federal Migration Office to stop sending Roma and members of other ethnic minority groups back to Kosovo until the situation improves.
A spokesperson for the migration office told swissinfo.ch that Switzerland must treat all asylum seekers fairly and that those sent back to their home countries must hold to that decision.
“The report primarily points to a lack of economic prospects (in Kosovo),” the spokesperson told swissinfo.ch. “This cannot serve as a reason not to repatriate Roma to Kosovo and thus treat other failed asylum seekers differently.”
The migration office has also asked the report's authors for more details concerning specific cases mentioned in the findings, which it expects to receive in the coming days.
“Memorandum of Understanding”
After having taken in some 40,000 asylum seekers from the region during the Kosovan war, Switzerland was one of the first states to recognize an independent Kosovo in 2008 and in 2009 declared it a “safe country of origin” for asylum seekers.
Following that declaration, the countries agreed to a “Memorandum of Understanding” in which Kosovo promised to ensure the migrants would be successfully re-integrated. In turn, Switzerland said it would support Kosovo’s socio-economic development and assist with asylum seekers’ repatriation.
Under international agreements, only those who returned to Kosovo freely could benefit from Swiss repatriation moneys; the remaining 661 members of minority ethnic groups who were repatriated against their will did not receive aid.
Switzerland has also pledged CHF7.8 million ($8.3 million) in development aid to Kosovo between 2007 and 2015 and is spending CHF900,000 on a project dedicated to social inclusion and improved living conditions for minorities in Kosovo.