Swiss aid authorities urge Kosovar refugees to return and rebuild

Government aid officials on Wednesday called on Kosovar refugees in Switzerland to return home as soon as possible in order not to be left behind in the rapid reconstruction process now under way in the war-ravaged Serbian province.

This content was published on July 14, 1999 - 16:49

Government aid officials on Wednesday called on Kosovar refugees in Switzerland to return home as soon as possible in order not to be left behind in the rapid reconstruction process now under way in the war-ravaged Serbian province.

The deputy head of the Swiss Disaster Relief Unit, Toni Frisch (left), said refugees in Switzerland should either go back or send at least one family member back to Kosovo to set up contacts in this crucial reconstruction phase.

Frisch, who had returned the previous day from a five-day trip to Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, said those refugees who would return a year from now risked left being behind in the reconstruction of housing and businesses.

He said returnees were now given unprecedented support in repairing their homes, including “shelter kits” and construction supplies paid for by the Swiss authorities and distributed by the U.N. refugee agency.

The head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Walter Fust (right), accused the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees of bureaucratic delays in the return of refugees, particularly regarding transit authorisation through Macedonia.

Fust said it was now relatively safe for the refugees to return, even though there were still some anti-personnel mines.

“There are still some mines and booby-traps but not as many as we had expected,” Frisch told a news conference in the Swiss capital Berne.

The agencies said Swiss aid would mainly flow into southern and south-western Kosovo, which had been hardest hit by the war and from where most of the Kosovar refugees in Switzerland came from.

Frisch said Switzerland would concentrate its aid efforts on establishing water supplies, food aid and construction materials.

There was also a significant demand for small credits in order to rebuild local businesses, he added.

In light of the latest developments in Kosovo, the Swiss authorities were expected to announce soon that Kosovar refugees would again have to go through the asylum seeking process.

The often time-consuming process was suspended nearly three months ago when thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting in Kosovo sought shelter in Switzerland.

Kosovar refugees returning voluntarily already get SFr2,000 ($1,333) in aid from the Swiss government as a starter bonus.


From staff and wire reports.



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