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Federal Refugee Office confident of asylum success

The director of the Federal Refugee Office, Jean-Daniel Gerber, says he is optimistic that consensus can be reached during next month's national conference on asylum policy.

The director of the Federal Refugee Office, Jean-Daniel Gerber, says he is optimistic that consensus can be reached during next month's national conference on asylum policy.

He was speaking after the cantons and federal government reached an agreement to keep the May 31 deadline for the voluntary repatriation of Kosovo refugees. Gerber said he was convinced that Switzerland's policy was the right one.

He called for all refugees who still had not signed up for the voluntary return to Kosovo to keep to the April 30 registration deadline. Gerber said, "to delay their return would make matters difficult for all those involved, the refugees themselves, the cantons and the government."

The cantons' decision to back the government's policy of forcible repatriation of Kosovo refugees after May 31 follows an agreement sealed earlier this month between the justice minister, Ruth Metzler, and the United Nations administration in Kosovo. The agreement was aimed at sorting out technical difficulties including the question of identitiy papers for refugees being forcibly repatriated.

Around 30,000 Kosovar refugees face forcible repatriation when the May 31 deadline passes.

Gerber said the national asylum conference on May 4 would try to settle three main issues: the repatriation of minorities such as Serbs, Romanies, and the Ashkali, (who are of Turkish origin), the question of youth education, and the issue of financial compensation for cantons engaged in repatriation.

On the latter issue, Gerber said he would propose a new compensation formula, based on the principle that the government would not place any financial burden on the cantons.

The national conference will be attended by the justice minister as well as two representatives from each cantonal government.

swissinfo with agencies




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