MINELRES: ERTF: Successor States of the former Yugoslavia must assume Responsibility over Refugees

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Fri May 11 18:05:53 2007

Original sender: European Roma and Travellers Forum <ertf@coe.int>

European Roma and Travellers Forum 

Press Release 

Successor States of the former Yugoslavia must assume Responsibility
over Refugees 

Strasbourg, 10 May 2007. Further to information according to which the
Bosnian authorities intend to put an end to temporary protection for
Roma refugees from Kosovo, the president of the European Roma and
Travellers Forum, Rudko Kawczynski, has called on the member states of
the former Yugoslavia to assume the legacies of wars and ethnic

Eight years after the end of the Kosovo conflict and twelve years after
the Bosnian war several ten thousands of Roma refugees do not yet have
their case settled. Many of them continue to live in refugee camps or
makeshift houses and have only limited access to health, education and

“Roma have been the main victims of the disintegration in the former
Yugoslavia. It is now up to the successor states to take up their
responsibility and provide the Roma refugees with the same conditions as
to their other citizens,” the president of the Forum said. 

Commenting on the current plans of the Bosnian authorities to force
Kosovo Roma into applying for asylum, Kawczynski said that this decision
was probably in breach with basic human rights principles. “A few years
ago, we saw the same happening in Macedonia. Until today hardly any of
the refugees who gave way to pressures of the Macedonian authorities has
been granted asylum. Children and adults have spent years in limbo
unable to integrate locally, but likewise unable to move abroad.”

In a letter to the Bosnian government, he also urged the Bosnian
authorities to take into account the time spent in reception centres
when considering applications for citizenship.

Kawczynski said that he was seriously concerned about the alleged plans
of the Bosnian and Macedonian authorities to repatriate Roma to Kosovo
as soon as the status issue is resolved. “Kosovo is an alien country,
not the place these people left several years ago,” the president of the
Forum said.

“The persistence of a particular aggressive ethnic nationalism and the
fact that war criminals continue to be celebrated as heroes puts a
serious obstacle to refugee returns. We have to accept that Roma have
been ethnically cleansed from Kosovo,” Kawczysnki said.

He said that it was a particular irony that the international community
in both cases, Kosovo and Bosnia, continued to negotiate with the
warring parties while disregarding the rights and legitimate concerns of
the Roma.

Established in 2004, the European Roma and Travellers Forum is the
European-level Romani interest representation which gathers Europe’s
main international Roma organisations and more than 1,500 member
organisations from most of the Council of Europe member states. The
organisation has signed a partnership agreement with the Council of
Europe which provides for special relations between both bodies.

For further information and interviews please contact: 

European Roma and Travellers Forum 
c/o Council of Europe 
F – 67 075 Strasbourg 

Tel.: 00 33 3 90 21 53 50 
Email: ertf@coe.int 

Sanela Besic 
National Delegate for Bosnia Hercegovina 
c/o Roma Council of Bosnia-Hercegovina 
Jukiceva 51 
71 000 Sarajevo 
Tel.: 00 387 333 202

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