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Berne and Tirana to sign refugee repatriation accord

The Albanian justice minister, Spartak Poci, is on a two-day visit to Switzerland during which he and his Swiss counterpart, Ruth Metzler, are expected to sign an accord on the repatriation of refugees.

The Albanian justice minister, Spartak Poci, is on a two-day visit to Switzerland during which he and his Swiss counterpart, Ruth Metzler, are expected to sign an accord on the repatriation of refugees.

The accord provides for the return to Albania of refugees whose requests for asylum have been turned down. It also allows Berne to send Kosovo Albanians home via Albania. About 50,000 Kosovars were given temporary shelter in Switzerland during last year’s conflict, and are due to be forcibly repatriated if they have not returned to Kosovo by the end of May.

The deal was drafted in January during a visit to Albania by the Swiss justice minister, Ruth Metzler. She and Poci will put their signatures on the agreement on Tuesday.

“I think this agreement could be a prototype for other central European countries,” says Swiss Radio International’s political correspondent, Peter Haller. “For instance Austria is also faced with the problem of returning Kosovar refugees, or even Germany and certain other European countries who are now having to find ways to transit these people back to Kosovo.”

The two ministers are also due to discuss strengthening co-operation in the fight against organised crime. Switzerland has indicated it is willing to help train the Albanian police force.

Haller says Berne is offering this help in return for the repatriation accord, but that this is also in Switzerland’s interest.

“A common problem for Switzerland, for most of central Europe and Albania, is organised crime,” he said. “There’s a lot of drug trafficking between central Europe and Albania, there’s a lot of cars stolen by gangs, and they end up in Albania. And there, there’s a common interest.”

From staff and wire reports

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