By Ricardo Zamora
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
Several human rights groups are urging European countries to halt the deportation of displaced Roma and other minorities into Kosovo where they face discrimination and human rights violations.
In a report released today, Human Rights Watch reports that deportees face numerous hardships upon return to Kosovo including lack of proper healthcare, difficulties in integrating into society, and a lack of education for their children. The deportees also have difficulty obtaining identity documents, employment, and social welfare services.
While now independent despite Belgrade’s claim of sovereignty over it, Kosovo is plagued by poverty, unemployment, and crime. Hostility among ethnic groups creates an environment with a high potential for violence.
“Europe is sending Kosovo’s most vulnerable people back to discrimination, exclusion, poverty, and displacement,” said Wanda Troszczynska-van Genderen, Western Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch. “If Europe’s leaders are serious about improving the plight of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians, they should suspend the deportations to Kosovo and ensure adequate support to those who have already been sent back.”
The report notes that over 50,000 minorities have been deported back into Kosovo since 1999 and expresses concerns over a significant rise in that number. The report explicitly voices concerns over some 12,000 people facing deportation in Germany alone.
But a recent policy shift on deportations to Kosovo by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where almost 40% of the refugees are living, suggests that reform is possible. A September decree issued by the state’s Interior Ministry recognized the need for special protection of these minority groups, requires individual screenings prior to deportation, and recommends not deporting school-age children. While decree does not completely disallow deportations, Human Rights Watch says that it is a positive step toward reform and gives hope to many of the 12,000 people currently at risk of deportation.
Nevertheless, concern stems from the Kosovo government who, seeking international recognition and under pressure from Europe, has signed readmission agreements with Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Norway.
“These agreements, and the absence of screening by Kosovo prior to (return) open the door to ever greater numbers of deportations, create a real risk of human rights abuse, and escalate crisis conditions for deportees, their families, and the broader Kosovo community,” the Human Rights Watch report warned.
For more information, please see:
Human Rights Watch – Kosovo: Europe Returning Roma to Face Hardship – October 28, 2010
The Star – Roma Forced Back To Dire Poverty, Deprivation – October 28, 2010
WAZ – Human Rights Watch Denounces Roma Deportations to Kosovo – October 28, 2010