• Press Release

European Countries Should Stop the Forcible Returns of Roma to Kosovo, Says Amnesty International

March 27, 2011

Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

European Countries Should Stop the Forcible Returns of Roma to Kosovo,
Says Amnesty International

Contact: AIUSA media relations office, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) — European Union (EU) countries should end the forcible return of Roma and other minorities to Kosovo, Amnesty International said in a new report, No welcome anywhere: Stop the forcible return of Roma to Kosovo,  published today.

“EU countries risk violating international law by sending back people to places where they are at risk of persecution, or other serious harm," said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s expert on Kosovo. "The EU should instead continue to provide international protection for Roma and other minorities in Kosovo until they can return there safely."

 The report details how Roma and members of other minority communities, including children, are forcibly returned to Kosovo often with nothing but the clothes they are wearing, to face the possibility of continuing discrimination and violence.

“The Kosovo authorities must also ensure that Roma and other minorities can return voluntarily and reintegrate fully in society," said Jones.

Many are picked up by the police in the early hours of the morning, and – with little time to gather their belongings – are often sent back with only the clothes they are wearing.

Few receive any assistance on their return to Kosovo, meaning many also face problems in obtaining access to education, healthcare, housing and social benefits.

Very few Roma are able to find work, with unemployment levels reaching 97 percent. Roma communities are twice as likely as other ethnic groups to be among the 15 percent of Kosovo’s population who live in extreme poverty.

Inter-ethnic violence continues while discrimination against Roma in Kosovo is widespread and systematic compounded by their perceived association with Kosovo Serbs. Largely Serbian-speaking and often living in Serbian areas of Kosovo, the Roma are still perceived to be allied with the Serbian community.    

“Despite recent measures introduced by the Kosovo government aiming to improve conditions for reception and reintegration of returnees, the authorities do not have the funding, capacity, resources or political will to ensure a sustainable return for them,” said Jones.

It has been estimated that around 50 percent of forcible returnees will leave Kosovo again.  These forcible returns are taking place under bilateral agreements negotiated, or under negotiation, between the Kosovo authorities and EU member states and Switzerland.

It has been reported that more than 10,000 Roma will be returned to Kosovo from Germany alone.

While genuinely voluntary returns must not be excluded, Amnesty International is concerned by reports that people agreed to go back only under the threat of forcible return.

“Until the Kosovo authorities are capable of ensuring the fundamental human rights of Roma and other minority communities, including Serbs and minority Albanians, they will return to face a climate of violence and discrimination,” Jones said. “Until then, the international community is obliged to provide them with protection.”

For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org