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Metzler meets repatriated Kosovar refugees

Switzerland's justice minister, Ruth Metzler, has met a group of repatriated Kosovar refugees on the second day of her official visit to the Yugoslav province.

Switzerland's justice minister, Ruth Metzler, has met a group of repatriated Kosovar refugees on the second day of her official visit to the Yugoslav province. The aim of her trip is primarily to ensure conditions are adequate for the return of about 40,000 refugees that were taken in by the Swiss last year, following Nato's bombardment of Yugoslavia.

Most of them expressed satisfaction with the situation they found on their return from Switzerland. A cabinet aide said the refugees were eager to help with the reconstruction of their war-torn province. The deadline for their voluntary repatriation is the end of May, after which the government says it will return people by force.

Switzerland's repatriation policy has come under fire from a number of sides. The Swiss Red Cross wants the deadline to be extended because of the continued threat posed by unexploded mines. The United Nations' administrator in Kosovo has expressed concern about a mass return of people to a region in which unemployment currently stands at eighty per cent.

Earlier today, Metzler met liaison officers for the Swiss development agency who informed her the social and medical structures in the province were of an acceptable standard for the refugees. Metzler is also holding talks with representatives of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

swissinfo and agencies



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