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Switzerland to deport 500 Kosovo asylum seekers in June

Forcible repatriation of the 14,500 Kosovo asylum seekers in Switzerland is due to get underway in June


The Swiss authorities intend to forcibly repatriate 500 Kosovo asylum seekers in June, as part of an operation to send back more than 14,000 people, who sought refuge in Switzerland during last year's conflict.

The Federal Refugee Office said the first repatriations would start in June, following a May 31 deadline for all Kosovo asylum seekers to leave the country. The 500 deportees are the first of 14,500 Kosovars, who will eventually be sent back to the province.

The authorities say the asylum seekers no longer need to remain in Switzerland because of the end of the conflict and the presence of international peacekeepers in Kosovo.

Around 23,000 people have already returned to Kosovo through a voluntary repatriation scheme, which provided returnees with funds and assistance to rebuild their lives in the shattered province.

Of the 14,500 scheduled for forcible repatriation, around 4,000 have been given permission to remain an extra three months. These are mainly families with children at school, young people in training and ethnic minorities. The deadline for Serb and gypsy minorities is to be reviewed at the end of August.

Switzerland took in an estimated 60,000 refugees and asylum seekers from the Kosovo conflict - the second-highest number in Europe after Germany.

swissinfo with agencies