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Ethnic minorities in Kosovo still face many problems, says report

News Stories, 10 March 2003

© UNHCR/R.Chalasani
Displaced Roma at Plementia camp on the outskirts of Pristina.

GENEVA/PRISTINA, March 10 (UNHCR) Kosovo's ethnic minorities continue to face security problems and lack access to basic services, three and a half years after the province was placed under a UN administration.

An assessment report released today and carried out jointly by UNHCR and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) says that despite progress in many areas, Kosovo's ethnic minorities lack access to education and health services. The study also says ethnic minorities, primarily ethnic Serbs and Roma, find it much harder to get jobs.

The report notes that one key concern is the lack of freedom of movement for the minorities, which affects their ability to lead normal lives. It says their access to health and education depends on their ability to travel freely and safely throughout the province. The report also expresses concern about the minorities' lack of property rights.

The assessment has found that after three internationally supervised polls, in which Kosovo's residents have chosen their own municipal and central leadership, fair and equitable treatment of minorities remains problematic in many areas. The report urges Kosovo's provisional government and legislative authorities to pass an OSCE-backed Anti-discrimination Law that lays foundations for the equitable treatment of Kosovo's minorities.

"Inter-community dialogue, confidence-building measures, commitment of the local authorities and a bottom-up approach represent key elements for improving the conditions of Kosovo's minorities," said Walter Irvine, UNHCR's top official in Kosovo.

The report the 10th such assessment in four years says the improvement in the overall situation of Kosovo's minority communities has not been "fundamental enough" to allow a large-scale return to the province of minority Serbs and Roma.

An estimated 200,000 people fled Kosovo in mid-1999 as Serbian forces withdrew from the province in the wake of a NATO-led bombing campaign against Serbia. Only a small number have since trickled back to Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians represent an overwhelming majority.

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Refugee Women

Women and girls make up about 50 percent of the world's refugee population, and they are clearly the most vulnerable. At the same time, it is the women who carry out the crucial tasks in refugee camps – caring for their children, participating in self-development projects, and keeping their uprooted families together.

To honour them and to draw attention to their plight, the High Commissioner for Refugees decided to dedicate World Refugee Day on June 20, 2002, to women refugees.

The photographs in this gallery show some of the many roles uprooted women play around the world. They vividly portray a wide range of emotions, from the determination of Macedonian mothers taking their children home from Kosovo and the hope of Sierra Leonean girls in a Guinean camp, to the tears of joy from two reunited sisters. Most importantly, they bring to life the tremendous human dignity and courage of women refugees even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Refugee Women

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

France is one of the main destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe, with some 55,000 new asylum applications in 2012. As a result of the growing number of applicants, many French cities are facing an acute shortage of accommodation for asylum-seekers.

The government is trying to address the problem and, in February 2013, announced the creation of 4,000 additional places in state-run reception centres for asylum-seekers. But many asylum-seekers are still forced to sleep rough or to occupy empty buildings. One such building, dubbed the "Refugee Hotel" by its transient population, lies on the outskirts of the eastern city of Dijon. It illustrates the critical accommodation situation.

The former meat-packing plant is home to about 100 asylum-seekers, mostly from Chad, Mali and Somalia, but also from Georgia, Kosovo and other Eastern European countries. Most are single men, but there are also two families.

In this dank, rat-infested empty building, the pipes leak and the electricity supply is sporadic. There is only one lavatory, two taps with running water, no bathing facilities and no kitchen. The asylum-seekers sleep in the former cold-storage rooms. The authorities have tried to close the squat several times. These images, taken by British photographer Jason Tanner, show the desperate state of the building and depict the people who call it home.

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003