Return of ethnic minorities from Kosovo postponed

Switzerland has extended the deadline for people from ethnic minorities in Kosovo to return home because of continuing tension in the region.

This content was published on August 17, 2000 - 17:59

The federal office for refugees said on Thursday people from ethnic minorities could stay in Switzerland until the end of May next year. They were originally supposed to have left by the end of this month.

The refugee office said there were still problems facing Roma gypsies, ethnic Serbs and members of the Albanian-speaking Ashkali community in Kosovo.

The Swiss authorities also disclosed there were problems affecting Albanians who used to live in southern Serbia. Their deadline for returning home has been extended until next May.

The new deadlines will affect a total of 3,000 people. But the refugee office said that overall the repatriation programme is going well.

A forced repatriation scheme has been underway since June for Kosovars who were refused permission to remain in Switzerland. About 14,000 people are expected to be sent home, although 4,000 cases are blocked by appeals based on medical, financial or educational grounds

More than 30,000 other Kosovars left voluntarily, with Swiss government financial support, under a repatriation scheme, which expired at the end of May.

Along with Germany, Switzerland took in the largest number of refugees from the Kosovo conflict, which ended last year.

swissinfo with agencies

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