Germany: Commissioner Hammarberg stresses need to halt returns to Kosovo*

Strasbourg, 15/12/2009 – “The forced return to Kosovo of people who have found shelter in European states should be halted", said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights publishing today a letter to the Chancellor of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel. He notes that Kosovo lacks infrastructures allowing refugees’ sustainable reintegration.

The Commissioner is particularly worried by the fact that Roma expelled from European states had to return to the lead-contaminated camps of Česmin Lug and Osterode in northern Mitrovica, where the exposure to lead has already caused serious illnesses to members of Roma families living there, including children. “These camps must be urgently closed, adequate housing provided to the families and complete lead-decontamination treatments ensured to all those affected.”

The Commissioner further stresses that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees confirmed in November that those who fled Kosovo and are still at particular risk of persecution include Serbs and Albanians in minority situations as well as Roma, persons in ethnically mixed-marriages or of mixed ethnicity, persons perceived to have been associated with the Serbian authorities after 1990, victims of trafficking or of domestic violence and persons whose asylum claims were based on sexual orientation.

“Return is not purely a technical administrative act”, added the Commissioner. “It means to receive and re-integrate returning people, including families, in dignity and security. I urge the German authorities to prevent any further forced returns to Kosovo, particularly of Roma people, as long as the situation there does not guarantee a safe and sustainable life for returnees.”

Read the Letter to Germany

* “All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.”

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Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37; stefano.montanari@coe.int