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Kosovo: Continued protection needed for some minorities

Briefing notes

Kosovo: Continued protection needed for some minorities

31 January 2003

UNHCR has just published a new position paper on the continued need for international protection for some people from Kosovo, in particular members of Serb, Roma, and some other minorities. UNHCR believes the general situation in Kosovo has improved over the past year. But the security situation of minorities continues to be a major cause for concern. The level of risk varies according to the particular group and their location.

Specific problems still being encountered range from acute discrimination, marginalization and restricted freedom of movement to destruction of property and physical harassment, including grenade attacks, landmines, booby-traps, drive-by shootings and arson.

We stress that the return of members of these minorities from asylum countries should continue on a strictly voluntary basis. In addition, any such voluntary returns should be carefully coordinated, and returnees provided with assistance to enable them to reintegrate properly once they are back home in Kosovo. UNHCR explicitly opposes any forced or induced return of members of these minorities to Kosovo.

By contrast, the vast majority of Kosovo Albanians who fled during the 1999 crisis have returned home and few of them face individual protection problems. Nevertheless, the UNHCR paper outlines some categories who may face serious problems, including risks to their personal safety, were they to return home at this time.