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UN asks Switzerland to suspend repatriations to Kosovo

Bernard Kouchner said Kosovo could not accommodate returning refugees

(Keystone)

The United Nations-led administration in the Serbian province of Kosovo has asked the Swiss authorities to suspend the repatriation of refugees during the winter months.

In a letter to the government, the UN administrator in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, said the reception facilities were unsatisfactory.

The federal refugee office has agreed to send a fact-finding mission to Pristina before the end of the month to find out first-hand about the conditions for returning refugees.

Spokesman, Dominique Boillat, said the office would discuss increasing Swiss aid to improve the reception facilities. The UN mission in the province is responsible for their reception but is short of funds.

He said this was one of several options being considered, and that a decision would not be made until December.

Boillat said other options included slowing down the rate of repatriations during the winter, and that no-one would be sent home anyway from mid-December to mid-January.

But he said suspending repatriations altogether would send the wrong signal to the people concerned.

Switzerland welcomed more Kosovar refugees per capita during last year's conflict than any other country. More than 40,000 refugees have already returned home, and about 1,200 remain to be repatriated.

swissinfo with agencies


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