As more and more Kosovar refugees are voluntarily leaving Switzerland and returning to their home region to rebuild their lives, Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss is visiting the war-torn region himself to assess Swiss reconstruction programmes.This content was published on July 23, 1999 - 16:25
As more and more Kosovar refugees are voluntarily leaving Switzerland and returning to their home region to rebuild their lives, Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss is visiting the war-torn region himself to assess Swiss reconstruction programmes.
Deiss -- who talked to refugees at a camp in Albania in May (picture) -- will hold talks with ethnic Albanian and Serbian leaders in Kosovo.
He is also expected to visit Swiss reconstruction programmes and discuss international aid efforts with Bernard Kouchner, the head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.
Switzerland has offered its aid services to the European Union, which is working on a stability pact aimed at securing long-term peace and prosperity in the Balkans.
Deiss’ visit comes as more and more Kosovar refugees are leaving Switzerland to return home.
A second repatriation flight carrying 91 Kosovar returnees left Zurich for Skopje on Friday. As in the case of the first such flight a few days earlier, the ethnic Albanians were flown to the Macedonian capital from where they travelled to neighbouring Kosovo by bus.
The airport of Kosovo’s capital Pristina is still not available for direct repatriation flights.
The returnees qualify for the Swiss government’s resettlement support package, which includes SFr2,000 ($1,333) for each adult and another SFr1,000 ($666) for each child.
The money was handed over in cash after their arrival and backed up by a provision of basic building materials so that the former refugees can repair their houses or build shelters.
The Swiss Refugee Office says it expects about 3,000 ethnic Albanians to return voluntarily by the end of the year. About 17 repatriation flights are scheduled to go ahead by the end of August.
From staff and wire reports.