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IOM organizes first direct refugee return flight to Kosovo

A group of 163 Kosovar refugees were flown from Switzerland to the Kosovo capital Pristina on Monday, in the first direct repatriation flight since the end of the fighting in the war-torn Serb province.

This content was published on August 2, 1999 - 12:42

A group of 163 Kosovar refugees were flown from Switzerland to the Kosovo capital Pristina on Monday, in the first direct repatriation flight since the end of the fighting in the war-torn Serb province.

The Swiss foreign ministry said the charter flight was arranged in close cooperation with the International Organisation for Migration, which is in charge of the repatriation efforts.

The four previous flights of voluntary returnees were forced to touch down in the Macedonian capital Skopje, from where the ethnic Albanians were taken to neighbouring Kosovo by bus.

"The opening of Pristina airport to IOM flights is a very positive event because it will now allow returnees to fly home directly and will increase the overall pace and effectiveness of IOM's return programme,” said IOM Director-General Brunson McKinley.

He added that, in light of the limited capacity at Pristina airport, many Kosovar returnees would continue to transit through Skopje airport in the foreseeable future.

The overall number of flights to Pristina would likely be increased to a maximum of four a day, he said.

The Swiss government gives each adult Kosovar refugee who returns voluntarily SFr2,000 ($1,300) in financial aid. Children get SFr1,000 ($666) a head.

The money is handed over in cash after arrival, as well as a provision of basic building materials so that the former refugees can repair their houses or build shelters.


From staff and wire reports.

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