Land route opened for returning Kosovo refugees

Nine European countries have signed an accord allowing refugees who fled Kosovo during last year's war to return home by an overland route, without a visa. Switzerland is among the signatories.

This content was published on March 21, 2000 - 16:05

Nine European countries have signed an accord allowing refugees who fled Kosovo during last year's war to return home by an overland route, without a visa. Switzerland is among the signatories.

The accord was signed in Berlin by Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Switzerland.

The Swiss justice ministry said the agreement was particularly important for refugees who had spent a lengthy time abroad, and had household effects to take home. It will come into force on April 22.

The accord also allows refugees to transit through the nine countries with temporary documents issued by the signatory states. The justice ministry said that so far, Kosovars without valid travel documents had little choice but to return home by air.

Switzerland granted temporary refugee to over 50,000 people who fled Kosovo last year during Nato's bombardment of Yugoslavia and the Serbian offensive in the province. About 30,000 are still in Switzerland. They have until May 31 to leave voluntarily, after which time the authorities will begin forced repatriations.

swissinfo with agencies

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