Switzerland, Italy step up cooperation on Kosovo repatriation

Switzerland’s Justice and Police Minister Ruth Metzler and Italian Interior Minister Rosa Russo Jervolino(l) said Tuesday they would step up cooperation on repatriating Kosovar refugees.

This content was published on July 28, 1999 - 11:30

Switzerland’s Justice and Police Minister Ruth Metzler and Italian Interior Minister Rosa Russo Jervolino (l) said Tuesday they would step up cooperation on repatriating Kosovar refugees.

Metzler, who was paying her first visit to Italy, said after talks with Russo Jervolino and her Italian counterpart Oliviero Diliberto that a working group would be set up to address the controversial issue.

Italy assured Switzerland a few weeks ago that Rome would take back Kosovar immigrants who had entered Switzerland illegally. The issue has somewhat strained relations between the two countries as some groups in Switzerland accuse Rome of not cracking down hard enough on smugglers leading Kosovar refugees across Italy to the Swiss border.

But Switzerland’s representative for Kosovo affairs, Urs Hadorn, said in Rome that the situation on the southern Swiss-Italian border had now improved.

“Each week, Italy is taking back 40 to 60 percent of all the refugees who have been barred from staying in Switzerland,” Hadorn said, adding that this amounted to several hundred refugees per week.

The vast majority of those trying to cross into Switzerland illegally have been ethnic Albanians fleeing the former fighting in Kosovo.

The new working group would meet for the first time after the summer vacation and would address Switzerland’s call for the overland repatriation of Kosovar refugees through Italian territory, the ministers told journalists in Rome.

The Italian authorities are concerned that ethnic Albanian returnees could try to stay in Italy while travelling home on a route leading from Switzerland through Italy.

There has been speculation that Italy may only agree to overland repatriation under police escort – a move which would likely see refugee buses being guarded by police from the Swiss-Italian border all the way southward to the Italian port of Brindisi. The returnees would then cross the Adriatic to Albania and travel on to neighbouring Kosovo.

Diliberto also expressed satisfaction about Switzerland’s cooperation in Rome’s fight against corruption, saying Switzerland had clearly speeded up the handling of Italian requests for legal assistance.

Both sides said the crackdown on money laundering would also be stepped up.


From staff and wire reports.

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