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UNHCR condemns violence against Serb returnee in Kosovo

News Stories, 7 October 2003

© UNHCR/R.Chalasani
Serb returnees working vegetable plots in Kosovo. Only a small fraction have returned out of an estimated 230,000 people &; mostly Serbs &; who fled Kosovo in 1999.

GENEVA, Oct 7 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has expressed serious concern over a recent attack on a Serb returnee in Kosovo, calling it a "stark reminder" of continued harassment against ethnic minorities seeking to return to the province.

The returnee, a 73-year-old Serb woman, had gone back to her hometown of Gjilan/Gnjilane on Saturday to repossess her property as authorised by a court ruling. She was shot and wounded by an ethnic Albanian man who had moved into her house with his family after she fled Kosovo in 1999.

The woman is now in hospital in the northern Kosovo town of Kosovska Mitrovica. The man who shot her has been arrested.

"The shooting represents the worst act of violence against a Serb returnee to Kosovo in many months," said UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski at a news briefing in Geneva Tuesday. "It is a stark reminder that despite much progress in efforts to reconcile Kosovo's communities, members of ethnic minorities who go back continue to face harassment and attacks."

Some 230,000 people, most of them ethnic Serbs, were estimated to have fled Kosovo in 1999 to Serbia proper and Montenegro, as Serbs forces lost control of the province. Only an estimated 8,379 minority members have since gone back, about half of them Serbs. The remainder are ethnic Roma.

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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

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