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Report rings alarm over threats to ethnic minorities in Kosovo

A newly-released report calls on the Swiss government to pursue a “more generous” asylum policy, saying gypsies and other minorities are facing serious threats in Kosovo and other regions of the former Yugoslavia.

This content was published on November 30, 1999 - 16:09

A newly-released report calls on the Swiss government to pursue a “more generous” asylum policy, saying gypsies and other minorities are facing serious threats in Kosovo and other regions of the former Yugoslavia.

International law expert Walter Kälin from Berne University told a news conference in the capital Berne that Roma and similar minority groups were facing difficulties far exceeding those faced by majority groups.

Kälin called on the Swiss government not to forcibly return members of those threatened minority groups.

The report’s findings were presented four days after the Swiss Refugee Council said that the international KFOR troops were unable to adequately protect ethnic minorities. The council said that gypsy groups were systematically persecuted and evicted from their homes by ethnic Albanians.

A Swiss Refugee Office spokesman said there had been no forced repatriations of Kosovar refugees to date. He added that the federal authorities would certainly not change that policy and would reassess the situation in January.

However, the spokesman made clear that the reassessment would only apply to Roma from Kosovo, and that the decision on forced repatriation for others from Bosnia-Herzegovina or Serbia would be decided on a case by case basis.

Kälin, whose report was commissioned by the Forum against Racism group, said ethnic minorities such as gypsies were also clearly threatened in Balkan regions other than Kosovo.

The report urges the Swiss government to intervene in Kosovo itself to help foster a dialogue on democratic rights and freedoms for all groups.

Switzerland has already begun mediating talks in the province to help rebuild democratic institutions and foster a dialogue between all ethnic groups in Kosovo.

From staff and wire reports.

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