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Manual for Sustainable Return

Part I - Context - Displacement

Legal Framework
Under international standards, refugees and internally displaced persons have the fundamental human right to return to their homes, irrespective of their ethnicity, in either a spontaneous or an organised and assisted manner. This is in conformity with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999), the Constitutional Framework and international human rights standards. These standards 4 form the basis for UNMIK's framework for minority rights protection and the returns policy for Kosovo.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border. In Kosovo we refer to those individuals and families living within the boundaries of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as IDPs. A Refugee, according to Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Geneva Convention, is "a person who is outside of his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution."

Types of Displacement
IDPs/Refugees within and outside Kosovo live in unstable and often unacceptable conditions in locations other than their place of origin. The location of displacement of families and individuals is in large part determined by the families/individuals' perception of the location's level of security and their ability to sustain a temporary residence due to the presence of other members of the displaced community that offer support and coping mechanisms (e.g. host families). Prior to 1999, Kosovo was comprised of both mono-ethnic and mixed villages. Although most of today's IDPs/Refugees fled Kosovo in the aftermath of the war, a large number of minority community members have remained. Some previously multi-ethnic villages have been abandoned, and many of their inhabitants have moved to neighbouring villages seeking safety in numbers. In many cases persons who lived in cities and larger multi-ethnic towns, such as Prishtinë/Priština, have left to live in mono-ethnic towns where they felt they would find a safer environment. In some cases these persons have occupied abandoned homes. This may lead to secondary displacement when the original owners wish to return, as they have no place to go. In addition, these persons were often employed in factories or government institutions in the urban areas and may not be able sustain themselves in a more agricultural setting. The majority of IDPs/Refugees live outside Kosovo in neighbouring Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, while a smaller number also reside in other European countries. Depending on the absorption capacity of the host community, most IDPs/Refugees are living with host families or in camps. IDPs/Refugees' associations have sprung up providing an information and dialogue linkage for agencies engaged in facilitating and managing returns programmes. Inside Kosovo the situation is not radically different. Host families in urban and rural locations provide accommodation to IDPs/Refugees, yet there remain significant numbers of ethnic minority families residing in managed camp facilities (e.g. Ashkali in Plementina Camp in Obiliq/c municipality and Serbs in collective centres in Brezovica, Strpce municipality). IDPs/Refugees' access to public services, freedom of movement and economic livelihood opportunities remain a challenge.

The situation for minorities in both mono-ethnic and multi-ethnic communities in Kosovo, whilst far from satisfactory, has gradually improved over the past three years. However, freedom of movement remains a substantial problem in Kosovo and access to adequate public services and job opportunities has not been fully developed.

Members of minority communities continue to be targets of harassment, threats and violence based on their ethnicity.


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