Kosovo: UN outlines principles for return of displaced persons, refugees

Kosovo: UN outlines principles for return of displaced persons, refugees

SRSG Steiner on a visit with Ashkali families
Setting forth the basic principles for displaced persons and refugees to go back to Kosovo, the head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in the province (UNMIK) today made public a conceptual outline on the right of sustainable returns.

UNMIK chief Michael Steiner launched a Concept Paper in the garden of the homes of some Kosovo Ashkalis, or Gypsies, who recently returned to the Vushtrii area from exile in Vojvodina, Serbia.

"I am here to honour the brave men and women who've exercised their inalienable right to return home," Mr. Steiner told the families and media. "The homecoming of these 59 individuals demonstrates the principles embraced by UNMIK and other agencies, as well as the Government of Kosovo."

According to the Paper, returns must be fundamentally based on the rights and decisions of individuals, and these rights should apply equally to members of all communities. Returns must also be sustainable, meaning returnees must have equal access to public services, employment, property, humanitarian assistance, freedom of movement and other attributes of normal life.

The document goes on to stipulate that no displaced person should be forced home, or be used as a political pawn, and that displaced persons should try to return to their original homes or at least the area they came from.

The Paper notes that security conditions for minorities continue to improve and that freedom of movement has gradually increased. "KFOR and UNMIK Police are shifting to a flexible, threat assessment-based approach in order to achieve the gradual dismantling of protected enclaves, and to promote local-level integration and reconciliation," the document says.

It stresses that with these improvements and the establishment of a multi-ethnic government, "there are emerging opportunities for returns."