UNHCR urges governments to suspend return of rejected asylum-seekers to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today urged European governments for the time being to stop sending rejected asylum-seekers from Kosovo back to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The statement came in the wake of an upsurge of violence in Kosovo which left dozens of people dead.
"Given the current situation in Kosovo, UNHCR urges governments to suspend the return of rejected asylum-seekers from Kosovo on humanitarian grounds," Dennis McNamara, UNHCR's Director of International Protection, said.
UNHCR says Kosovo Albanians whose asylum applications have been rejected should not be sent back until the situation in the province stabilises.
European countries have regularly returned rejected asylum-seekers to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The overwhelming majority of asylum-seekers from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Until now, UNHCR has not objected to Kosovo Albanians being sent back, as long as their asylum claims have been thoroughly reviewed.
There are currently more than 150,000 people, mostly Kosovo Albanians, who are in line for return, based on bilateral agreements between countries of asylum and Belgrade authorities.
On Friday, UNHCR expressed alarm about the recent upsurge in violence in Kosovo, urging all concerned to make every effort to prevent a further escalation which could trigger new waves of refugees.