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UN warns of dangers of Kosovo repatriations

The United Nations refugee agency has again warned of the danger of large numbers of refugees returning to Kosovo, particularly from Germany and Switzerland.

The warning comes a day after the Swiss authorities confirmed they would begin the forcible repatriation of 16,500 people next month.

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the agency feared that the influx would increase pressure on the non-Albanian minorities in Kosovo to leave the province.

He added that, in general, the UNHCR preferred voluntary to forced repatriations.

The spokesman also called on countries which granted temporary asylum to Kosovars during last year's conflict not to force people from minority groups (mainly Serbs and Gypsies) to return home.

The Swiss government on Thursday agreed to delay the repatriation of minorities, but insisted that the forcible repatration of the remaining 16,500 Kosovo Albanians would begin in June.

The Geneva-based UNHCR added that the number of asylum applications in European countries fell by eight per cent in the first three months of the year, compared to the same period last year.

swissinfo with agencies


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