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Switzerland to help register Kosovar returnees

Switzerland is to make Sfr 1.9 million available to the UN Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), to help the breakaway Yugoslav province set up a residents' and election register. The first municipal elections in Kosovo are planned for October this year.

Switzerland is to make Sfr 1.9 million available to the UN Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), to help the breakaway Yugoslav province set up a residents’ and election register. The first municipal elections in Kosovo are planned for October this year.

The international community is faced with the difficult task of bringing order to the province, over which it assumed control after last year’s NATO campaign to end Serbian ethnic cleansing there. Between mid-April and mid-July, UNMIK and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe will register all inhabitants aged 16 and above.

The registration will allow UNMIK to issue UN-approved travel documents. Many inhabitants lost their passports during the 1999 conflict; with UNMIK in control, their Yugoslav passports became invalid. The new UN document will allow Kosovo residents to apply for visas, and legally leave and re-enter the province.

Registration will also concern Kosovar refugees living outside the province, including those settled in Central Europe, or those who have been accepted as asylum-seekers. It covers not only Kosovar Albanians, but also non-Albanian minorities, such as Serbs and Roma, who have fled Kosovo.

The registration operation will cost Sfr 58 million. The financial contribution from Switzerland’s Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Federal Office for Refugees, is also aimed at facilitating Switzerland’s own programme of returning Kosovar refugees living in the country.

Switzerland’s plan to return the majority of its Kosovar refugees home by a May 31 deadline earlier came under fire for the UNMIK head, Bernard Kouchner. Kouchner said that there was insufficient infrastructure in Kosovo to allow a mass return.

He also said the international community had not produced the funds which had been promised to assist the repatriation of refugees.

By Jonathan Fowler

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