More than 11,500 Kosovar refugees repatriated from Switzerland

The Swiss authorities again urged Kosovar refugees in Switzerland to sign up for the government’s voluntary repatriation programme, saying 11,560 ethnic Albanians had already profited from the material and financial repatriation package.

This content was published on November 22, 1999 - 17:48

The Swiss authorities again urged Kosovar refugees in Switzerland to sign up for the government’s voluntary repatriation programme, saying 11,560 ethnic Albanians had already profited from the material and financial repatriation package.

The Federal Refugee Office told a news conference in Berne that at least 15,000 refugees will have left Switzerland to return to their home region by the end of the year.

Officials said that more than 8,000 of those returnees had registered at the “Warehouse” in Kosovo’s capital Pristina, where Swiss aid officials hand out shelter kits.

Those include plastic sheeting, lumber, bricks, doors, windows and wood stoves. Returnees can also apply for vehicles to transport their belongings back to their former homes.

Swiss aid agencies, along with international aid groups, are racing against time in their efforts to provide shelter for the tens of thousands of refugees who now face the cold winter weather in the Balkans, where the first snow has already fallen.

International organisations estimate that about 100,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and the subsequent NATO bombing earlier this year.

Ethnic Albanian adults who volunteer to leave Switzerland before the end of the year will get SFr2,000 ($1,300) and children SFr1,000 ($666) in financial aid from the Swiss authorities. Those refugees who sign up after the end of this month will only receive half that contribution.

Switzerland also supports agricultural reconstruction in Kosovo with provisions of seeds and 500 cows for dairy production. The federal authorities say they also hope that about 12 schools will be repaired before the end of the year.

The Swiss government told the well over 50,000 Kosovar refugees in August that it had lifted the Kosovar war refugees' collective permission to enter the country as of August 16, but would still give people until May 31, 2000 to leave.

From staff and wire reports.

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