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Deadline extended for repatriation of Kosovo minorities

Refugees belonging to minorities in Kosovo have been given an extended deadline to leave Switzerland voluntarily.

The justice ministry said refugees of Romany or Turkish origin, or any other minority could now have until August 31 to leave the country, instead of May 31. The extension also includes school students, who enrolled before September 1999.

Thursday's decision to extend the deadline in certain cases follows a national conference on asylum policy. Representatives of the government and from the cantons met in Berne to discuss the repatriation of refugeees to Kosovo.

The justice minister, Ruth Metzler, hailed the conference as a great success. There was broad agreement on retaining the current May 31 deadline for all other Kosovar refugees, and on the forced repatriation of refugees remaining beyond that date.

The conference also discussed the logistics of transporting large numbers of people back to Kosovo under the forced repatriation programme starting in June. According to Metzler, this will affect around 16,500 people.

Around 30,000 refugees have so far gone back or have so far registered to return to Kosovo under the voluntary repatriation programme.

swissinfo with agencies

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The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting