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Cantons and government give green light to Kosovo repatriation deadline

The government and cantons have agreed to keep the May 31 deadline for the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Kosovo, who arrived before June 1999.

The government and cantons have agreed to keep the May 31 deadline for the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Kosovo, who arrived before June 1999. Switzerland is due to start forcibly returning refugees after the deadline passes.

The decision follows an agreement sealed earlier this month by the justice minister, Ruth Metzler, with the United Nations in Kosovo (UNMIK). The accord is aimed at easing technical difficulties, such as the question of identity papers of refugees who are forcibly repatriated.

Around 30,000 Kosovar refugees are affected by the June deadline to leave Switzerland.

Nearly 19,000 Kosovars accepted financial incentives to return home by the end of last year. Of the more than 4,000 refugees who signed up for a second phase of the voluntary programme, around 1,600 have so far gone back.

The federal government and the cantons expressed hoped that as many refugees as possible would take up the offer of reptatriation aid before the June deadline.

However, the cantons unanimously backed measures allowing for delays in special cases. Other issues linked to the repatriation programme will be tackled in a national asylum conference on May 4.

swissinfo with agencies

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