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Swiss to step up forced repatriation of Kosovars

Switzerland is to speed up the forced repatriation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo who have refused to leave Switzerland voluntarily.

A spokesman for the federal refugee office, Dominique Boillat, said on Tuesday the repatriation programme had got off to a good start in July, when 1,800 people were returned to Kosovo – more than twice the number originally scheduled.

Boillat said, however, the numbers would be increased in coming months. A total of 14,000 people are expected to be covered by the forced repatriation scheme.

Almost all the 32,000 other Kosovars left voluntarily, with Swiss government financial support, under a return programme which expired at the end of May.

Boillat said it would not be possible to forcibly repatriate the remaining numbers by the end of the year. A total of 4,000 cases are blocked by appeals based on medical, financial or educational grounds.

In canton Vaud, which has the largest Kosovar community, nearly a quarter have appealed against their forced return.

There were fears that large numbers would go underground to avoid repatriation, but this has so far proved not to be the case. “For a Kosovar it’s very difficult to live clandestinely in Switzerland,” said Boillat.

The policy differences between the cantons, which are responsible for the repatriations, were criticised on Tuesday by the Swiss Refugee Council.

It said certain German-Swiss cantons were not heeding its appeal that only single people or those with intact homes should be forcibly repatriated. A spokesman for the Refugee Council said the French-Swiss cantons were doing rather better in this respect.

Meanwhile, the federal refugee office said on Tuesday the number of people seeking asylum in Switzerland had risen slightly, after a drop over the past few months. A total of 1,269 people applied for asylum in July, 92 more than in June.

As in previous months, the largest number of requests – 236 – came from the former Yugoslavia, followed by people fromTurkey with 125 applications, and Iran with 108.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR