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Red Cross questions Kosovar repatriation plan

The Swiss Red Cross has criticised the government's plan to begin the forcible repatriation of 30,000 Kosovar refugees at the end of next month. It says they are ill-prepared to face the dangers of unexploded landmines.

The Swiss Red Cross has criticised the government's plan to begin the forcible repatriation of 30,000 Kosovar refugees at the end of next month. It says they are ill-prepared to face the dangers of unexploded landmines.

The Red Cross indicated that Switzerland should extend its deadline due to the continued threats to the returnees' safety.

The breakaway Yugoslav province is littered with mines and unexploded ordnance, remainders of the conflict between Serb forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army, and of last year's NATO bombing campaign. Returning civilians are often unfamiliar with the dangers these pose.

The Red Cross began holding risk awareness sessions in June 1999. The half-day sessions on the dangers of mines are led by two Kosovar specialists who have been trained under the International Red Cross Mine Awareness programme.

Around 600 refugees have been alerted to the dangers they may encounter on the return home. The Red Cross plans to run 30 further sessions, with at least 20 participants each. The refugees learn how to recognise mines, and what to do in the event of an accident.

swissinfo with agencies

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