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(Period covering September 2001 to April 2002)

- Joint OSCE / UNHCR document -


152. The period of September 2001-March 2002 marked the first organised returns of Kosovo Serbs to Kosovo, facilitated by UNHCR, UNMIK, KFOR and other partners. The first organised returns were accompanied by the emergence of a consensus within the international community that the minority return issue had received inadequate attention and priority to date. There was increasing acknowledgement among international actors and Kosovar leaders alike of the linkage between respect for minority rights (including return) and the maintenance of a durable peace in Kosovo and in the region. There was a noticeable qualitative shift in the political rhetoric during the period, specifically, an increasing tendency towards openness in discussing the minority situation and increased references made to the causal link between respect for minority rights and European integration. While, prior to the Kosovo-wide elections of November 2001, the public and/or political discussion of the right to return was largely debated only amongst international actors, Kosovar leaders and opinion makers from the majority community demonstrated an increasing willingness in the post-election environment to publicly acknowledge the need for minority stabilisation, integration and minority return.

153. As interest and commitment has clearly intensified (particularly within UNMIK, KFOR and the highest echelons of the newly-elected Kosovo Albanian leadership) to address as a priority the situation of minorities and the problem of minority displacement and return, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that policies and practices related to return of minorities to Kosovo are firmly grounded in a human rights framework. The modalities of return planning and implementation, while adapted to the realities of Kosovo, must uphold fundamental humanitarian principles of voluntary return and reintegration through the application of a rights-based approach.

The human rights framework for return

154. The right of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to voluntarily return to their place of origin is firmly grounded in international law instruments. [1] The right of IDPs and refugees for a free and informed choice to return in a safe and secure environment is explicitly established in UN Security Council Resolution 1244, specifically entrusting UNMIK as the international civilian authority with the responsibility of “assuring the safe and unimpeded return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes in Kosovo”. KFOR is mandated with establishing a “secure environment” in which such return can take place, while UNHCR is designated as the entity responsible for supervision of the safe and free return of all refugees and IDPs. The right to return is also guaranteed in the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo, which confers upon the “competent institutions and organs in Kosovo [to] take all measures necessary to facilitate the safe return of refugees and displaced persons to Kosovo…” [Chapter 3.4]. The right to return is intrinsically linked with the right to equal protection before the law, the right to liberty of movement, the freedom to choose one’s residence, and the right to property. The realisation of these rights cannot take place without minimum guarantees of returnees’ most basic right to life and to physical security. But also inextricably linked to the right to return is the entitlement of returnees to enjoy civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights on a non-discriminatory basis, such as the right to use one’s language, the right to work, and the right to housing, education, health care, and social benefits. It is only when these rights are guaranteed that IDPs and refugees have the possibility of a free and informed choice on whether to return or not.

155. Promotion (or in other words, active encouragement) of the voluntary return of IDPs and refugees requires that the conditions in the territory of return change substantially enough as to be conducive to safe and dignified return and sustainable reintegration. In the context of Kosovo, it is especially important to emphasise that the right to return is inalienable, and can be subject neither to negotiation nor to a veto of the majority community. Nonetheless, it must be appreciated that the rights and guarantees afforded to returnees can only be achieved by addressing the root causes of insecurity, discrimination and alienation between ethnic groups. In the Kosovo context, creating safe and sustainable conditions requires a meaningful process of dialogue and confidence-building measures grounded upon a political commitment to such processes by Kosovo’s majority and minority communities and their leaders. Creating conditions for return cannot be viewed as primarily an exercise of physical protection through the allocation of military or police assets to “ensure” security. Such an approach, necessary to “ensure” immediate physical security in the absence of a fundamental change in social and political conditions, simply cannot sustain a significant return process for the over 200,000 minorities displaced outside of Kosovo. Such an approach to return will naturally limit return to what is possible as dictated by the numerical equation of soldiers and returnees, enabling only small numbers to return without clear prospects for their quality of life or their future within Kosovo society.

156. Furthermore, establishment of basic pre-conditions for return through ensuring local security within circumscribed minority areas is not sufficient to justify declaring that adequate conditions for return exist. Establishing local security (i.e. returnee security within their homes and neighbourhoods), primarily through military protection and through preventive behaviour of returnees who self-limit their mobility to a well-defined area of safety, will not be sufficient to create a “pull factor” [2] which will persuade significant numbers of IDPs and refugees to return to Kosovo. Incentives for larger numbers of persons to return, spontaneously or organised, can only be created by fundamentally transforming the relationship between Kosovo’s majority and minority communities, from which the necessary improvements in security and freedom of movement will follow. It is with this in mind that it becomes evident that achievements in improving conditions for return cannot simply be measured, during the preliminary phase of a return process, in the numbers of returnees to Kosovo, but rather in the quality of “first returns”. There is a worrying tendency to assess progress in the earliest stages of the return process by using quantitative benchmarks. This tendency, which not incidentally is often accompanied by the politicisation of return, or lack of return, in many contexts, is ultimately a hallmark of an unsustainable approach to resolving the problem of displacement.

157. Following a two-year period with only very small numbers of spontaneous minority returns, the period covered in this report witnessed the implementation of several small-scale organised return projects, initiating a nascent phase of facilitated minority return to Kosovo. Parallel to actual return developments, significant and positive institutional and political changes also took place, namely the November 2001 elections which ensured the creation of provisional institutions of self-government and the formation of a Kosovo Assembly as well as the establishment of an UNMIK office with competence over the return issue. These political and institutional developments, if mobilised within a human rights framework, may strengthen the prospects for a future return process. Yet it is clear that despite some limited yet significant improvements in the localised security situation of many minority communities in Kosovo during the previous periods, as well as the results of the first returns and other political and institutional developments, the international community has not yet been witness to changes that are meaningful enough to conclude that conditions exist for large-scale return of minorities in the near future. The only guarantee for accelerating successes which might allow for such conditions to emerge may be found only in the prioritisation of a political and societal dialogue aimed at achieving consensus between the majority and the minority on the return issue, resulting in action on the part of government and society to transform the social, political and security environment.

Spontaneous return trends and ongoing departures

158. While the second half of 2001 marked the first organised Serb returns to Kosovo, indeed a comparative review of return patterns points to an actual reduction of overall numbers of returns in 2001 as compared to 2000. Reduced numbers of return can be attributed to a significant reduction in spontaneous return. [3]

159. Kosovo Serb spontaneous returns in 2000 numbered a little over 1,800 persons, while spontaneous return of Serbs to Kosovo in 2001 reached only a little more than 500 persons. [4] These downward trends might be explained by several factors. Perhaps most importantly, the relatively larger numbers of return in 2000 largely reflected return to large enclaves (such as Gorazdevac) by IDPs who had fled temporarily during the height of violence against minorities in summer and fall of 1999; thus, the returns in 2000 were not necessarily return motivated by a fundamental change in the environment. Thus, those who had the opportunity to return to their homes in a select few enclaves had already returned in 2000. Furthermore, the late winter of 2001 was marked by the Niš Express bombing which resulted in the death of 11 Serbs, dealing a massive blow to minority confidence and marking the height of a period of upsurge in violence against minorities precisely before the opening of spring, [5] the season when refugees and IDPs may be considering the prospects for return. Certain regions, in particular Gjilan/Gnjilane, also experienced instability related to the conflicts in FYROM and Southern Serbia proper during the first half of the year, reducing confidence and return opportunities. But perhaps most significantly, the situation in 2001 increasingly consolidated the reasoned perception amongst IDPs and refugees that, notwithstanding marginal and relative improvements in local security in their immediate places of origin, the overall situation did not warrant the belief that, upon return, their families would enjoy any positive long-term perspective or future in Kosovo. The example of Slivovë/Slivovo in Prishtinë/Priština rural south clearly demonstrates the fact that, notwithstanding a stable and relatively secure local environment for the remaining Serb inhabitants, return of significant numbers will not take place whilst freedom of movement is still highly restricted to circumscribed locations and constrained by special collective transport arrangements, without confidence in rule of law including enforcement of property rights, without economic perspectives, without social, educational and job opportunities for youth, and without full and guaranteed support for reintegration such as reconstruction aid.

160. Improvements in the security situation in specific locations during the reporting period, bringing about a period of relative calm within minority areas after previous tumultuous periods, were not accompanied by significant enough general improvements and therefore did not create a “pull factor” for spontaneous return. While most minority communities experienced a very significant decrease in ethnically-motivated violence in their local areas, many minorities continued to be unable to move freely to access towns or urban centres (the source of economic opportunities), still could not safely access public services and spaces, and continued to require special measures to ensure a very limited degree of mobility. The lack of an upward trend in spontaneous return is indicative of a lack of significant enough generalised improvements as to create incentives for return.

161. While it is clear that Kosovo’s Ashkaelia and Egyptian populations in particular enjoyed more advances in their general situation as compared to Kosovo Serbs and Roma, the return trends do not point to having yet reached the critical turning point vis-à-vis conditions for sustainable return for Albanian-speaking ethnic minorities. Very few spontaneous returns were noted during the year 2001 and during the reporting period. Return of Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians was largely limited to UNHCR-facilitated movements from fYROM, which continued with very low numbers, with 327 RAE refugees returning during 2001 to Kosovo. It should be noted that these returns took place mostly to six municipalities only, and that the majority (70%) of the total returns to Kosovo during the year took place during the period April-July, coinciding with the most critical periods of internal armed conflict in fYROM. “Push factors” rather than significant qualitative improvements in conditions in Kosovo can be considered a compelling factor motivating many returns during this period. This is demonstrated by the fact that during the year, 780 Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees in fYROM opted for return to internal displacement in Serbia proper. Thus, approximately 70% of the total number of Kosovar RAE refugees who left fYROM in 2001 actually re-located to Serbia into internal displacement, despite very difficult material conditions there, rather than returning to Kosovo under prevailing circumstances. [6]

162. At the same time, there were some areas with significant Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian populations, who did indeed experience notable advances in security and freedom of movement within their municipalities and regions, yet these improvements did not produce significant increases in spontaneous return. Often, one key obstacle to return could be found in the unsustainable living conditions in the potential locations for return, while another key obstacle remained the lack of significant enough Kosovo-wide improvements in security and freedom of movement as well as lack of reconstruction assistance. To cite an example, the Albanian-speaking Egyptian communities of western Kosovo enjoyed a gradual but significant reduction of insecurity, steady improvements of freedom of movement, and increased dialogue and interaction with the majority Albanian community, yet this region did not receive significant numbers of new returns. This can be partially attributed to the fact that material conditions (particularly reconstruction and income generation opportunities) were not widely available, and existing Egyptian communities had exhausted their absorption capacity given already over-burdened host family arrangements. [7] During the period there was a growing realisation within the international community that, without creating material conditions for the return of IDPs within Kosovo through reconstruction and other reintegration assistance, and the ability to reclaim their homes, existing communities will remain too fragile to generate any pull factors for further refugee and IDP return from outside of Kosovo. At the same time, the lack of return of RAE to some communities was not only a function of poor material conditions, but also often continued to be a matter of security and uncertain inter-ethnic relations. While many existing RAE communities enjoyed improvements in relations with Albanian neighbours, in some locations the majority population continued to express their opposition to return. In some cases, this opposition seemed clearly motivated by majority interests (e.g. occupation of RAE houses or land usurpation), where the return of IDPs of RAE communities would clearly threaten the status quo, creating a risk to returnees’ safety. It therefore cannot be said that obstacles to return for RAE are only of a material nature.

163. As highlighted in previous reports, return developments can only be fully understood by assessing spontaneous return trends in relation to trends of ongoing displacement. Small-scale but steady departures of minorities continued throughout the period, with trends differing by area and ethnic group, but with levels of departures generally constant over time. The scale of departures from specific areas continued to reflect the different levels of stability or instability within existing minority communities in Kosovo and related levels of minority confidence. Ongoing departures reinforce the above-mentioned fact that local improvements in security have not been accompanied by significant enough general improvements to stabilise and normalise daily life in existing communities. The following analysis of return and departure among the Kosovo Serb and RAE populations in the Prishtinë/Priština Region during the period May 2001 to March 2002 illustrates general trends. [8]

164. In Prishtinë/Priština region, Kosovo Serbs departed Kosovo in larger numbers than they returned. During the period May 2001 to March 2002, more than 500 persons departed, while about 385 persons returned. While Kosovo Serb departures outnumbered returns from a quantitative perspective, the numbers alone do not tell the whole story. Particularly vulnerable Kosovo Serb communities, especially those in semi-urban and ethnically mixed areas such as Lipjan/Lipljan and Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje experienced large outflows and very few if any returns. [9] This phenomenon in specific semi-urban and mixed areas is explained by the fact that Serbs tended to be scattered in mixed neighbourhoods and therefore more exposed to threat and the impact of restricted freedom of movement, combined with the fact that Kosovo Serbs in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje tended to own strategically important properties on the main thoroughfares (resulting in high levels of property sales to Kosovo Albanians). Return and departure in rural areas varied, depending on the level of isolation and the particular security situation, with the most isolated and rural villages often experiencing more departures, and less isolated and more stable villages receiving more returns. [10] This is simply explained by the fact that the most rural and isolated of Kosovo Serb communities, while often experiencing security threats or low-level intimidation ranging from the occasional to the unremitting, tended to enjoy the least amount of freedom of movement and less access to services and goods than larger and less isolated minority communities, translating into greater push factors to depart than pull factors to return. In contrast to the rural areas, the larger, fortified semi-urban minority enclaves such as Gracanica/Graçanicë received many more spontaneous returns than new departures. [11] The contrasting return and departure trends in different types of areas inhabited by Kosovo Serbs tended to support the consolidation of the “enclavisation” of minority life in Kosovo. Many smaller, rural minority communities or semi-urban communities in more mixed areas tended to experience drops in their minority population ranging from small to highly significant, while the population of larger mono-ethnic enclaves (whether semi-urban or rural) tended to remain more stable.

165. Trends also emerge when analysing the reasons cited by Kosovo Serbs for spontaneous return to Kosovo or departure to Serbia proper. In the Prishtinë/Priština region, 35 families who returned spontaneously between December 2001 and March 2002 were interviewed. Of these families, approximately 70% cited the lack of income and poor material and living conditions in Serbia as the principal reason for return to Kosovo. The remaining families cited various individual reasons for return, including in a few cases having secured a job in Kosovo, wanting to protect property from occupation, or needing to take care of elderly relatives who had remained. Only one family interviewed cited that return was prompted by a pull factor: due to confidence in an improvement of security situation in Kosovo. Of the families interviewed during this limited period, 30% returned to their own house, while over 50% returned initially to a relative’s house (or in a few cases an empty flat belonging to another family or to a public premises such as a school or collective centre) due to the inability to return to their own village or house due to security concerns or property occupation. During the same period, 27 families departing the Prishtinë/Priština region for Serbia or elsewhere were interviewed. While immediate insecurity (fear of attack in and around the home) was no longer cited as the compelling factor prompting departure, the lack of generalised improvements in freedom of movement and the lack of safe access to town centres and urban areas, effectively prohibiting employment and other benchmarks of integration, constituted the underlying reason behind all departures. Approximately 50% of the families sold their properties before departing.

166. Trends in Kosovo Roma and Ashkaelia return and departure in the Prishtinë/Priština region differed substantially from that of the Kosovo Serbs in the same region. During the period May 2001 to March 2002, a total of about 225 persons departed the region while almost 500 returned (of which 63% were Ashkaelia) mostly from fYROM. The ratio between returns and departures heavily favoured return from the quantitative perspective. Qualitatively, returns of RAE to Prishtinë/Priština region from fYROM tended to have one primary characteristic: most Roma and Ashkaelia families tended to return into displacement (usually with hosting relatives in a house, village or town other than the place of origin), due to the fact that their own villages or neighbourhoods were deserted, security conditions did not exist, their properties were destroyed, they could not access reconstruction assistance in the foreseeable future, or their own properties were occupied by displaced Albanians, Serbs or even other displaced RAE families. Return into internal displacement to a very limited number of locations contributed to the further over-burdening of existing communities. Patterns of Roma return differed from Ashkaelia return. Roma tended to return to the Kosovo Serb villages of Prishtinë/Priština rural south only [12] into very overburdened Roma communities. Kosovo Roma return most often occurred into displacement. [13] Ashkaelia return was limited almost entirely to Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje [14] , also usually into displacement in host family arrangements, contributing to further saturation of the community. A second trend seen, most commonly amongst Serb-speaking Roma, was that of refugee families returning for a transitory period and departing again after a period of only a few weeks. In 2001, of 15 Roma families who returned to Gracanica/Graçanicë, only 1 family remained while the other 14 departed again for fYROM or Serbia. The extremely limited absorption capacity of hosting communities, inadequate living conditions and occupation of returnees’ homes by other Roma IDPs contributed to this phenomenon. New departures of long-time RAE community members from the Prishtinë/Priština region were not noted.

167. Virtually no returns of members of the Kosovo Bosniak minority to Kosovo were recorded during the period, except for a few individual or exceptional cases (including a few cases of forced return/deportation). Although the overall security situation for Bosniaks has stabilised considerably and mobility and confidence continues to slowly improve, ongoing individual departures continue on a very slow but steady basis from Bosniak communities in many regions. The most significant departures during the period occurred in the Podgor area (Prizren region), where approximately 20 Bosniak families left the village of Grncare/Granqar during a three-month period. Most Bosniaks displaced outside of Kosovo since 1999 have found refuge in Montenegro or Bosnia & Herzegovina, but new departures appear to be largely destined for other European asylum countries. The primary reasons for departure are not direct security threats per se, but rather a function of the inability of Bosniaks to confidently use their own language in public outside their very small communities without facing a security risk, which effectively creates social and economic isolation, pressure to assimilate, and an environment of discrimination. There are no significant indications of aspirations amongst Bosniak IDPs and refugees to return to Kosovo in the foreseeable future.

168. No significant progress was made on laying the groundwork for returns of displaced Kosovo Albanians where they constitute a minority. There was, however, a notable increase in expression of aspirations to return among Kosovo Albanians displaced from majority Kosovo Serb areas, demonstrated by increasing demands to the international community to facilitate return and reconstruction, requests to visit villages of origin, and attempts to exercise freedom of movement. Realistic potential for return of Albanians to the northern parts of Mitrovicë/Mitrovica municipality remained extremely remote, hindered by the tense political environment and ever-present uncertainty about the security situation. Pointing to this is the fact that none of the Albanian families forcibly evicted from apartments in North Mitrovicë/Mitrovica in 2000 and 2001 (which KFOR and UNMIK Police were unable to prevent) have been able to reclaim or re-inhabit their properties to date. Another indicator is the fact that a few Go-and-See Visits of Kosovo Albanians to their villages of origin within northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica which were organised by UNMIK and KFOR at the request of the Albanian IDPs generated protests, roadblocks from Serbs in the north, highlighting the potential for violent backlash. The situation in north Mitrovicë/Mitrovica remains fundamentally unstable, and risks to remaining (mostly housebound) non-Serb minorities continue to be ever-present. The scenario is generally less dramatic in the other Serb-dominated municipalities of the north, outside of northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica. The Kosovo Albanian enclaves in the majority Serb municipalities of Leposavic/Leposaviq, Zubin Potok and Zvecan/Zveçan continued to receive small and incremental spontaneous returns of Albanian IDPs from the south. Indeed, return is expected to increase in part due to the establishment of a new school, ambulanta, shop, UNMIK community office and a mini-bus shuttle which will connect the three principal Albanian villages in Leposavic/Leposaviq. Unlike in north Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, the low-key and gradual small-scale return of non-Serbs in these other northern areas is not as strongly obstructed by the same political obstacles, although conditions for more significant numbers of ethnic Albanian returns are still tenuous.

169. No tangible progress was made on the return of Kosovo Albanians displaced from their homes in majority-Serb municipality of Štrpce/Shtërpcë. However, Albanian access to the municipality saw slight improvements toward the end of the period following the highly contentious incidents surrounding the issue of lack of access of the Albanian Municipal Assembly members to the municipal building in Štrpce/Shtërpcë town in January and February. The recent development of Kosovo Albanians accessing and working in the municipal building, if sustained, will mark a first step towards increasing interaction with the Serb population. The situation continues to be quite fragile, and confidence-building measures must bear fruit before the contentious issue of return will realistically be able to be added to the agenda.

Organised return

170. Work to support the creation of conditions for return and to co-ordinate organised return initiatives for displaced Kosovo Serbs during the second half of 2001 continued to be co-ordinated under the auspices of the Joint Committee on the Return of Kosovo Serbs (JCR) structures. [15] Regional and Local Working Groups (RWG/LWG) in each of the five regions and various municipalities continued to function under the chairmanship of UNHCR, with the active participation of UNMIK structures, KFOR, OSCE, NGOs and local community and political leaders representing the Serb communities. Co-ordination of RAE return issues continued to take place separately from the JCR process and RWG/LWG structures, with efforts taking place in a parallel fashion until the end of 2001. UNHCR, with the support of KFOR, continued to organise Go-and-See Visits of minority IDPs and refugees outside of Kosovo to visit their places of origin in order to assess first-hand the security and material situations in Kosovo. Go-and-Inform visits of UNHCR, UNMIK, and other organisations’ staff to meet with refugees and IDPs in Serbia, Montenegro, and FYROM were also undertaken during the reporting period. A number of Go-and-See Visits of Serb and Ashkaelia IDPs/refugees were organised to many municipalities including Prishtinë/Priština, Gjilan/Gnjilane, Vushtrri/Vucitrn, Pejë/Pec, Klinë/Klina, Istog/Istok, and Prizren among others. The visits received increasing media coverage, in many cases coverage which could be said to be neutral, while in other cases it tended to be inflammatory towards the concept of minority return, or in a few cases towards individual IDPs or refugees included in the visits. At the local level, Go-and-See Visits were conducted without serious security incidents, and indeed in some cases producing spontaneous contacts between minority IDPs/refugees and their former Kosovo Albanian neighbours. During the period, the Go-and-See and Go-and-Inform modalities continued to be the primary tool for combating the lack of information (or misinformation) among the IDP/refugee population, helping them to make informed choices about their future.

171. Year-long inter-agency efforts through the JCR and other parallel processes produced four small-scale organised returns to Kosovo during the second half of 2001, resulting in the actual return of a little over 175 persons. Each of these returns differed substantially in its planning parameters, its approach and in character, these differences clearly reflecting variations in levels of inter-ethnic dialogue and confidence between minority and majority, and different security environments. The different mechanisms of establishing a secure environment are reflective of different constraints, risks and realities on the ground.

172. The return generating the most political interest and general debate was the return of Kosovo Serbs to the Osojane Valley in Istog/Istok municipality. The return of a group of IDPs representing more than 65 families [16] to four hamlets in the Osojane Valley took place during the August/September period, into an area which suffered massive property destruction after the flight of the entire Serb population in the summer of 1999 and had been deserted since then. The return to an empty and destroyed area required a large-scale reconstruction effort; reconstruction assistance was provided for 55 households. [17] KFOR undertook a highly resource-intensive exercise to seal and secure the valley to ensure returnee security. Pre-return discussions were undertaken between the international community, Albanian leadership at the central and municipal levels as well as surrounding communities, but the environment did not exist for dialogue and confidence-building between the Serb returnees and the Albanians prior to the return. Infrastructure and community development projects were implemented in the Albanian communities immediately neighbouring Osojane in order to try to balance attention to majority community needs (for this reason, termed “balancing projects”). Although one peaceful public demonstration occurred in Istog/k to protest against the return, security remained stable. However, the relations between returnees and the majority population remained virtually “untested” given the security mechanisms which, while necessary to ensure immediate security during the early phases of return, did have the unfortunate side-effect of entrenching separation between the returnee community and the Albanian population. Reducing barriers by normalising preventive security measures, by ensuring the delivery of municipal services to the returnee community, and by enhancing inter-ethnic contact through dialogue, economic interaction and returnee participation in municipal structures remain perhaps the most important challenges in the consolidation of the return process. The pre-return and immediate post-return phases of the Osojane Valley return were co-ordinated by UNHCR. With the consolidation of the returnee group and attention on the priority issues of reintegration, the UNMIK Regional Office assumed the lead co-ordination function, in particular, overseeing reconstruction, infrastructure recovery and municipal services issues, while UNHCR continued to support the return process with particular attention to humanitarian needs and co-ordination with IDPs in Serbia. During early 2002, UNMIK, UNHCR and KFOR along with a range of partners began planning for a second phase of return to Osojane, given high levels of interest amongst Osojane IDPs in Serbia to return to their community.

173. The two organised return projects of Kosovo Serbs in the Gjilan/Gnjilane region differed substantially in character from the Osojane return. Returns of Kosovo Serbs were facilitated to the twin villages of Gornji Makres and Makresh i Ultë (Gjilan/Gnjilane) as well as to the village of Ljestar/Leshtar (Kamenicë/Kamenica). The main planning parameter in both return locations was the simultaneous return of both Albanian and Serb IDPs, made possible through a process of pre-return dialogue and confidence-building supported by UNMIK municipal officers, UNHCR and other agencies. By October, a total of 13 Serb IDP households had returned to Gornji Makres and were assisted with reconstruction or house repair assistance. Simultaneous to the facilitated return of the Serb families, 10 Albanian IDP families displaced within the region simultaneously returned and were also assisted to rebuild their damaged or destroyed properties in neighbouring Makresh i Ultë. [18] In Ljestar/Leshtar, 13 Serb IDP families returned during the summer and autumn months, while 22 Albanian IDP families also returned during the same period; both Albanian and Serb households were assisted with housing reconstruction or repair assistance. [19] Security mechanisms put into place in both return locations were discreet (increased patrols and risk reduction through enhancing area security by KFOR and UNMIK Police/KPS, as opposed to static or highly visible presence), with emphasis placed on creating a secure environment and preventing incidents through fostering co-existence. This was possible due to a relatively less volatile inter-ethnic environment and the particular historical experience between ethnic groups in the areas of return. UNHCR took the lead in overseeing the return process overall, while UNMIK, KFOR, OSCE, NGOs and other actors focused on their respective areas of responsibility.

174. The fourth significant organised return during the reporting period was the return of nine Ashkaelia families (56 persons) displaced in the Plemetina camp in Obiliq/Obilic municipality (with exception of one family displaced in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje) to their neighbourhood in Vranjevac/Kodra e Trimave (urban Prishtinë/Priština). After expressions of confidence by IDP families in the possibilities for safe return and requesting assistance for reintegration, the international community assisted the IDPs to re-establish contact with their former Albanian neighbours and municipal authorities. Reconstruction assistance was obtained from the annual Reconstruction Programme, through the Municipal Housing Committee, and the project was also allocated additional municipal funding for the clearing of debris, marking the first time that a municipality contributed financially to a minority return project. [20] Dialogue initiatives were facilitated, involving stakeholders ranging from neighbours to the President of the Municipal Assembly. Security planning emphasised low profile security presence initially through enhanced KFOR efforts, later turned over to UNMIK Police and KPS. Efforts to ensure security that were based on prevention and risk-reduction by re-establishment of community links between returnees and the local community have to date been successful, with only a few incidents of harassment reported. Efforts were made to ensure the enrolment of the Ashkaelia returnee children in a neighbourhood Albanian school. Overall co-ordination of the return was performed by UNHCR. The return set the groundwork for present planning of further small-scale returns of Ashkaelia to the neighbourhood from Plemetina camp and from FYROM in 2002. It should be noted that ensuring the sustainable return of less than 10 families (which took over a year of planning and work to achieve), given the present limitations of the Kosovo-wide environment, required an extremely careful planning process involving the active engagement of UNMIK, UNHCR, KFOR, UNMIK Police, NGOs and local leaders.

175. The inter-agency planning activities undertaken in 2001 to enable organised minority returns to take place to Osojane Valley, Gornji Makres/Makresh e Ultë, Ljestar/Leshtar and Vranjevac/Kodra e Trimave brought into focus for the principal agencies and organisations involved some key lessons learned. [21] Most importantly, the highly complex, time-consuming, resource-intensive and multi-sectoral nature of facilitating a safe and sustainable return became absolutely evident. It was increasingly understood that, under prevailing circumstances, which continue for the most part to prohibit spontaneous return, opportunities for replicating return successes are directly proportionate to limited human resources. Resources and efforts must be mobilised among a multitude of agencies in order to build confidence and create a minimum level of area stability to responsibly allow returns to take place; even the return of a very small number of minority families requires a disproportionately large level of resources, especially human resources. If we compare the social environments of the four organised return locations in 2001, it also becomes evident that, even with a massive commitment of resources, creating an environment which ensures at least some contacts between ethnic groups and no inter-ethnic violence requires a fundamental qualitative change in the political and social relations between Kosovo’s ethnic groups. Returns to environments where stringent security measures are required to ensure returnee safety are ultimately much less sustainable. An approach based on ensuring returnee security primarily or exclusively through preventive deployment of military assets ensures that return will only occur in very small numbers as determined by military asset levels. This approach to return also fails to provide guarantees of returnee security when military assets in the region are reduced. For these reasons among others, building tolerance was recognised to be one of the key factors necessary to create safe conditions for returns.

176. The 2001 experience also pointed to some more basic and concrete lessons learned. It became clear that equal attention had not been paid to all ethnic communities and their return needs. The RAE communities were particularly affected by unequal attention, and indeed it was noted that opportunities for return in some cases might have been missed due to lack of assistance, especially reconstruction aid. The issue of return of displaced Kosovo Albanians to areas where they constitute a minority were also given insufficient attention, largely due to a prohibitive political and security environment in Serb-majority areas (especially northern Kosovo) which must be addressed with due consideration of the return issue. It was also noted that very little attention had been given to IDPs displaced within Kosovo (including persons who had returned to Kosovo into displacement). Lessons learned also included the conclusion that funding for return initiatives should be secured not only for housing and infrastructure recovery, but also for a range of other activities, particularly the funding of institutions to ensure the implementation of property law and development of economic activities to ensure the economic viability of returnee communities. At the same time, the focus on returns to a few limited locations should not be at the expense of addressing the broad improvement in conditions for minorities that are necessary for large-scale returns. Predictable and stable funding mechanisms adapted to the needs of return processes were found to be required in order to sustain future return processes. Agencies widely agreed that, wherever possible, return planning should include municipal structures and encourage participation of municipal authorities. The role of local civil society organisations, particularly those able to make unique contributions in inter-ethnic dialogue, was also emphasised as a key lesson learned.

177. The issue of reconstruction assistance in the context of return deserves special mention. The availability of reconstruction assistance increasingly emerged as a potential obstacle to creating a sustained and more meaningful return process. Also, the reconstruction needs for reintegration of families already returned to internal displacement and host family arrangements were brought more clearly into focus. Existing mechanisms for reconstruction through the UNMIK Reconstruction Programme for Kosovo were found difficult to adapt to the immediate needs of returnees, particularly those returnees coming back to their communities in the second half of the year, after the completion of the beneficiary selection process. Concerns were also expressed from various organisations that the existing reconstruction programme would not be able to accommodate the demands generated by any future large-scale return without an infusion of funding and a reorientation of planning parameters designed around the special dynamics of a minority return process. [22] The 2001 experience also indicated that minority return projects had higher costs. Higher costs in some instances resulted from higher levels of paid labour support within the context of self-help projects, given the unique situation of minority returnees; after more than two years in displacement, minorities return to a particular situation defined by restricted freedom of movement and very few opportunities for income generation, both which significantly reduce self-reliance capacity. Costs of minority return projects were also found to be higher due to the incorporation of balancing projects as part of a situational approach. [23] All of the above lessons will need to be considered when designing a suitable reconstruction response in the context of returns for the next several years. One very positive step was the completion of a housing and infrastructure damage assessment in select minority (mostly Serb and RAE) locations in Kosovo. [24] The damage assessment will serve as an indispensable planning tool for future housing reconstruction and infrastructure rehabilitation projects linked to return processes.

178. The above-mentioned activities to facilitate actual returns to Kosovo, resulting in the four organised return initiatives described, were of tremendous importance in that they gave impetus to a new process and brought the issue of return to the fore. These initiatives were undertaken under the auspices of a framework strategy with a two-pronged approach: facilitating wherever possible actual return movements to specific locations, while in a parallel fashion improving the general conditions for return in order to build a foundation for larger-scale return in the future. Unfortunately, the latter was not given enough priority. Fundamental societal or institutional problems that undermine conditions for return, such as lack of inter-ethnic dialogue or lack of implementation of property legislation, continued to be neglected. Crucial institutions such as HPD continued to be grossly under-funded and therefore unable to guarantee property rights, which could benefit thousands of displaced families of all ethnicities. While important return projects were implemented for a limited number of families (at significant cost), other initiatives of a more global nature that could indeed benefit much larger numbers of displaced persons were neglected. However, during the end of the period, important political and institutional developments took place, which will hopefully result in a more systematic and balanced approach to transforming Kosovo-wide conditions, which will favour larger scale return.

Political and institutional developments related to return

179. During the reporting period an acceleration of important political and institutional developments occurred, largely concentrated during the immediate periods preceding and following the Kosovo-wide elections. Several of these developments were of particular importance to the return issue, not the least of which was the 17 November election and the subsequent establishment of Provisional Institutions of Self-Government under the Constitutional Framework established by UNMIK Regulation 2001/9.

180. The 17 November 2001 election was preceded by dialogue between UNMIK and the FRY Government in Belgrade, in an attempt to clarify the uncertainty that prevailed over Kosovo Serb participation in the elections. On 5 November 2001, UNMIK and the FRY Government jointly signed a Common Document reaffirming certain aspects of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, including reiterating the commitment to the return of all IDPs and refugees to Kosovo, and more specifically, UNMIK’s intention to establish an office under the direct supervision of the SRSG to act as an “operative, co-ordinating body for the furtherance of the [return] process, including by suggesting a new plan for returns covering 2002-2003.” The need for such an office to develop UNMIK’s strategic policy on returns had been discussed during previous months, and was made a reality in early December 2001, with the creation of the Office of Returns and Communities (ORC) within the Office of the SRSG. It should be noted that the ORC is responsible not only for the issue of returns and reintegration of IDPs and refugees, but also is mandated with developing policies and co-ordinating activities to promote co-existence between ethnic communities and stabilise existing minority communities. The creation of the ORC represented a very important step for UNMIK, a concrete indication of increased priority given to efforts to promote and accelerate solutions to the problem of displacement.

181. With the creation of the ORC, return co-ordination mechanisms were restructured to reflect an enhanced leadership role of UNMIK on the return issue. ORC is still preparing a policy paper on returns that will guide the overall process. The Steering Committee of the JCR (chaired by UNHCR) as well as the JCR itself, which existed as the primary central-level fora for return planning in 2000 and 2001, were discontinued in December 2001 and is to be replaced by a Task Force on Return and Reintegration (TFR). It is envisaged that this will be chaired by the SRSG, and will include representation of political and community leaders of all majority and minority ethnic groups of Kosovo. While the anticipated TFR has not yet been convened, Regional and Local Working Groups on Return and Reintegration continued to function, albeit with a restructuring of the local working groups on a municipality-by-municipality basis (Municipal Working Groups). As of March 2002, the five Regional Working Groups were overseeing the work of Municipal Working Groups in 17 municipalities. UNHCR continued to chair the working groups, and co-ordinate local and regional pre-return planning processes in close co-operation with UNMIK, but it is foreseen that UNMIK will assume the chairmanship function in the near future, when resources allow. The Regional and Municipal Working Groups in each region are presently engaging in assessment and planning (including calculating resource requirements) for various return locations for 2002, as security and other conditions allow in specific potential return locations. ORC intends to take the lead in mobilising donor funding for return projects.

182. During the reporting period, UNMIK also began to develop a more robust information outreach policy vis-à-vis minority communities and IDPs, also at least in part as a result of the experience of outreach to IDPs mainly in Serbia in the pre-election period. UNMIK Department of Public Information began to intensify consultations with several agency partners, including UNHCR, to discuss strategies for outreach to IDPs through the mass media in FRY, production of written materials about the situation in Kosovo and other initiatives. Implementation will require attention in the coming months. During the period, UNMIK established three Community Information Centres in Gracanica/Graçanicë (Prishtinë/Priština), Silovo/Shillovë (Gjilan/Gnjilane) and north Mitrovicë/Mitrovica. Similar centres are also planned to open in the Prizren and Pejë/Pec regions, in Upper Orahovac/Rahovec and Gorazdevac/Gorazhdevc respectively. These offices were designed in order to increase information flow between UNMIK and minority communities, and as the centres develop, will hopefully engage in information outreach to minorities displaced outside of Kosovo as well.

183. An important shift in KFOR strategy toward minority return was noted during the reporting period. KFOR’s active participation in return planning and implementation, as well as their general experience on the ground in minority communities, prompted analysis of the most appropriate security responses in the context of return. Moving a step beyond an exclusive focus on deployment of military assets to address inadequate security environments, KFOR began to foresee the need to take a more comprehensive, developmental approach to transforming the local environments where inadequate security exists (and not only pursuing the ‘containment’ of conflict), in order to more fully comply with the mandate to ensure a safe and secure environment under UN Security Council Resolution 1244. In this regard, KFOR increasingly noted the need to ensure that regional security planning is designed to assist minorities and surrounding majority populations to overcome psychological barriers (rather than reinforcing subjective fears and an ‘enclave mentality’) and complement confidence-building activities. While the majority of contingents in the regions have embraced their responsibilities for enhancing, to the extent possible, freedom of movement, and assisting in the return planning process (by developing security plans and providing support for Go-and-See Visits, for example), there have been some notable exceptions which are also problematic from the human rights perspective. KFOR MNB (S) in particular continues to place restrictions on free movement for Kosovo Serbs in the Prizren region [25] which have curtailed a potential increase in normalisation of movement of displaced Serbs to visit their properties and undertake social visits in Zhupa Valley, or to spontaneously return. Often, MNB (S)’s positions on return issues have been seen as incompatible with the overall KFOR strategy of reducing barriers between ethnic groups, in fact, often giving the opposite impression that complete restriction of contacts between minority and majority communities is a necessity for preventive security reasons. MNB (S) positions sometimes also give the troubling impression that the majority community should de facto be given a veto on the right to return. However, despite some inconsistencies on the ground, KFOR’s overall strategic approach towards return for 2002 and beyond is being developed in a very positive and forward-looking direction. The overarching strategy foresees the need to enhance troop presence in potential areas of return, but also foresees the importance of incrementally reducing presence as confidence is established between communities, in part so as to ensure that security measures do not have a negative impact on inter-ethnic contacts and confidence-building measures. These developments are welcome and it is hoped that this strategic direction will be consistently reflected in the security planning of each Multi-National Brigade.

184. The formation of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), with the participation of all ethnic communities, marks another key development that greatly changes the institutional and political landscape vis-à-vis return. The coalition agreement endorsed by the Kosovo Albanian political parties to form a majority government represented the first formal commitment of the majority Government to adopt policies in favour of minority integration and in particular to “give full attention to the promotion of a stable and secure society with full freedom of movement for all communities. The right of refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes and the re-instalment of property to its legal owners will be upheld.” [26] The highest echelons of the Kosovo Albanian political leadership, including the Prime Minister, have made public and private statements in favour of integration, non-discrimination and the need to overcome the enclave situation that presently defines minority life in Kosovo. Given the very-recent formation of the Government, it is still premature to judge whether the positions expressed to date will be translated into policies and practices that indeed deliver positive results. Return is at the top of the political agenda of the Kosovo Serb coalition, Povratak; indeed, the name of the coalition means “return”. [27] It remains unclear at this early stage what scope may exist for co-operative and constructive dialogue between the majority and minority coalitions within the PISG on the return issue. The only thing that is clear at this early juncture is that a political consensus is a fundamental necessity if any meaningful progress is to be achieved. The greatest risk to achieving a constructive dialogue is likely to be the politicisation of the process. At this stage, ironically, the liabilities of political obstruction seem as likely to be created by the minority Kosovo Serbs themselves as from the majority Kosovo Albanian leadership. Both the majority and minority coalitions have a large responsibility to ensure that return remains a priority of the Assembly and the Government, and that this humanitarian issue is addressed constructively.

185. While the active engagement of the PISG at the central level on the return issue is still in its most early stages, interaction between the international community and local municipal authorities has been on the agenda for about a year, at least in select municipalities. During the period, increased efforts were made primarily through the Regional and Municipal/Local Working Groups to engage Kosovo Albanian municipal leadership structures in dialogue on return, with mixed results. In a number of municipalities (in most municipalities of the Prishtinë/Priština, Gjilan/Gnjilane and Pejë/Pec regions, for example), there has been a very significant increase in the level of willingness amongst municipal leaders to engage, even publicly, in discussions about minority return and to put the issue on the agenda. Members of Municipal Assemblies as well as community leaders in some municipalities have supported the establishment of and are beginning to participate in Municipal Working Groups, and have demonstrated a willingness to engage in return discussions which simply did not exist in the past. [28] While little progress has yet been seen in attitudes towards return (continued emphasis on conditionalities to return, for example), the fact that Kosovo Albanian leaders are open to discussion and participation, and indeed more open to have their views on return challenged, is indeed a very important first step. It should be noted however, that progress differs greatly by municipality, with leaders in some municipalities still very hesitant to be publicly seen to associate with dialogue on return, or even refusing to acknowledge that minorities have a right to return. One particular case of a positive development within municipal structures, the Lipjan/Lipljan Mediation Committee, should be mentioned. In late 2001, the Lipjan/Lipljan Mediation Committee and its head (a Kosovo Albanian) took the initiative to undertake a series of visits and discussions with Ashkaelia IDPs from Lipjan/Lipljan displaced outside of the municipality. As a result of dialogue and a petition of Ashkaelia families to be assisted to return to their villages in Lipjan/Lipljan, the Mediation Committee, supported by UNMIK, undertook efforts to obtain a commitment from local political parties and members of the Municipal Assembly to prioritise the return of Ashkaelia to the municipality and to undertake the necessary dialogue with local communities in order to ensure that minority families can realise their right to return. This initiative is still underway, and is not without its challenges and problems, but constitutes a very positive example that other municipal self-governance structures should replicate.

186. While positive examples were seen during the period, overall there continued to be an unfortunate tendency on the part of both the Albanian and the Serb populations to politicise the return issue. Both communities, where they constitute a majority, continued to use strikingly similar political rhetoric focusing on the unacceptability of return of the other ethnic group until the full realisation of return of the displaced of their own ethnic population. Kosovo Albanians often expressed objection to Serb return until Mitrovica city would be reunited and until Kosovo Albanians would be able to return to the northern part of the city; Kosovo Serbs objected to Albanian return partly on the grounds that Serbs were still unable to safely return to Albanian majority areas, with particular emphasis on Prishtinë/Priština. This rhetoric, which amounts to holding the return of the opposing ethnic group political hostage pending the realisation of the rights of the other, remained a key obstacle. At the same time, the discourse on both sides was marked by conditioning return upon solutions on the sensitive issue of missing persons and detainees, also pointing to a worrying tendency to condition solutions for one humanitarian problem to another compelling, yet separate, humanitarian problem. Three major tendencies characterise the discourse during the period: First, the tendency to recognise return as an absolute right for one’s own ethnic group, while viewing return as subject to conditions or limitations for the other ethnic group. Second, the tendency to use displacement and return as a political bargaining chip, as opposed to viewing return as a humanitarian problem to be resolved in order to guarantee respect for fundamental rights. And third, the persistent failure to recognise return as a social process and therefore the tendency to dismiss the importance of confidence-building and inter-ethnic dialogue as an indispensable measure for improving prospects for return. These tendencies pose a major obstacle to significant advances in the return of both Albanians and Serbs to areas where they constitute a minority. Recognition amongst Albanian and Serb leaders alike at all levels of society of the unequivocal right to return for all IDPs and refugees regardless of ethnicity, of the equal importance of realising the return of all ethnic groups, and of ensuring freedom of movement of all ethnic populations in all areas of Kosovo, remains a fundamental pre-condition for progress. This progress will be difficult to achieve so long as local community leaders fail to appreciate the qualitative distinction between turning return into a political issue versus giving political priority to return in order to solve a humanitarian problem.

Outlook for return

187. Based on the above review of return developments during the period, it is clear that the outlook for return is mixed. On the one hand, positive institutional and political developments have taken place concurrently with the consolidation of the first small-scale and modest, yet groundbreaking, organised return movements. These developments would tend to support the notion that the international community is firmly moving in the right direction in order to meet their obligations to IDPs and refugees under UNSC 1244 and human rights instruments. On the other hand, the conditions on the ground do not favour the conclusion that significant returns, either spontaneous or organised, will take place in the near future.

188. Until the necessary political groundwork is laid through the new Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, and until more attention is given to inter-ethnic dialogue and confidence-building as a pre-requisite for return, it will be very difficult to avoid situations similar to the “Osojane model”. The Osojane return (notwithstanding its achievements which would have been inconceivable just a year before) is not a model which will produce sustainable large-scale return and durable reintegration of minorities in Kosovo society if replicated. [29] It is clear that reaching the turning point towards large-scale minority return will absolutely require an investment of time and resources to create a political breakthrough, specifically, by creating momentum in political dialogue and by consolidating political commitment of the majority as well as the minority to build mutual confidence, to reduce existing barriers between communities, to allow and to accept integration, and by achieving this, to transform the security environment. The international community must seize upon the new political developments together with the PISG at all levels, to ensure that the necessary political foundations for a sustainable return process are laid in 2002. A failure in this effort will potentially delay any substantial return even further. The importance must be stressed of the need to address all the major problems faced by minorities, as described in this entire assessment, in order to ensure that the conditions are there for minorities to remain and return.

It should be noted that the potential for significant forced returns [30] of minorities from Western Europe asylum countries during 2002 could have a destabilising effect on many already-fragile minority communities and a detrimental effect on the sustainability of the nascent organised voluntary return process. There is a need to integrate voluntary return movements from third countries into the ongoing return planning processes which are carefully and incrementally being undertaken on behalf of refugees and IDPs within Kosovo and neighbouring territories


[1] The right to return is enshrined in the Article 13 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in various binding international human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [Article 12 (2) and (4)], the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination [Article 5(d)(ii)], and in regional human rights instruments. The European Convention on Human Rights [Protocol 4 Article 2] guarantees the right to liberty of movement and the freedom to choose one’s residence within one’s state territory.

[2] In this context, pull factors are those factors in the place of origin which encourage an individual decision to return, such as an improvement of security, or the availability of material or economic opportunities in the place of return. These are distinguishable from push factors, which are negative factors in the place of refuge, which may induce return, such as lack of shelter or material assistance in displacement. Refugees and IDPs thus may be induced to return due to push factors, even if the conditions in security, socio-economic or material conditions in the place of return are inadequate or unsustainable.

[3] When referring to trends in return, it must always be borne in mind that the overall numbers referenced continue to be so low as to be of relative insignificance when placed in perspective of the over 200,000 IDPs and refugees.

[4] It should be noted that over half of those spontaneous returns of Kosovo Serbs in 2000 were to fortified enclaves (such as Gracanica, Upper Rahovec/Orahovac, Gorazdevac, etc.) by IDPs who, after a brief period of refuge outside of Kosovo, returned to the largest enclaves. Spontaneous returns in 2001, in contrast, took place to a wider variety of locations but in smaller numbers, pointing to the fact that the generalised situation outside of the fortified enclaves is still largely prohibitive of return for the vast majority of displaced persons.

[5] Trends in ethnically-motivated violence during the period referred to are reviewed in the 7th Minorities Assessment which covers the period October 2000 – February 2001.

[6] Many of those RAE refugees who returned to internal displacement in Serbia are from municipalities in Kosovo, for example Suharekë/Suva Reka, where security conditions and the social environment are not conducive to return.

[7] For example, in four municipalities of western Kosovo, over 200 RAE families live in internal displacement in host family arrangements, unable to return to their own neighbourhoods and damaged or destroyed homes. A significant number of these families had previously returned from Montenegro into internal displacement in Kosovo since their own communities remained uninhabited or still destroyed.

[8] This period, representing almost one year, is assessed in lieu of the limited period covered by this report, since it is difficult to adequately analyse movement trends in a shorter period, due to factors such as seasonal variations.

[9] In the semi-urban area of Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje municipality, 67 Kosovo Serb families (over 300 persons) were recorded as having departed, while for the same urban area only 1 family returned. In fact, the only Serb return recorded was short-lived as the household sold their property and departed again to Serbia proper. In Lipjan/Lipljan town, 22 Kosovo Serb families departed while 5 families returned during the same period.

[10] For example, 21 persons departed the small isolated village of Staro Gracko/Starograckë (Lipjan/Lipljan) during the period representing about 5% of the village population, while only 3 persons returned. In contrast, Plemetina village (Obiliq/Obilic) which is a larger village which has enjoyed relatively more stability has received 28 returnees but only had 1 departure. Another example of a larger and more stable village is the case of Babin Most/Babi Most (Obiliq/Obilic), which received 33 returnees (one or two households almost every month during the period). Yet even despite the decrease in security incidents, incremental improvements in mobility enjoyed in Babin Most, and some improvements in contact between Albanians and Serbs in the area (including some commerce) still 19 persons departed for Serbia after selling their property. These sales, of properties located a bit outside of the village and therefore more isolated, demonstrate that even improvements are highly localised, and minorities living outside the immediate “area of security” of a village may feel more vulnerable. Very good prices offered for these houses was likely also a contributing factor.

[11] Gracanica/Graçanicë received over 40 returnees, while a few more than 10 persons departed. It should be noted that spontaneous returns of Kosovo Serbs to the larger, semi-urban minority enclaves sometimes consisted of return to internal displacement as opposed to return to the place of origin, due to prohibitive security conditions, insufficient freedom of movement and access to services/goods, property occupation and other factors in the village or neighbourhood of origin.

[12] About 130 Roma refugees (over 70% of the total who returned) went to Gracanica/Graçanicë, Preoce/Preoc, Laplje Selo/Llapje Sellë and Caglavica.

[13] This includes both return to displacement within the same actual village of origin (but not to one’s own house or property), or to a different village or region than the place of origin.

[14] 166 Ashkaelia returns were recorded to Fushe Kosova/Kosovo Polje (53% of the total) while the remainder of returnees went to various locations in Prishtinë/Priština, Lipjan/Lipljan, Shtime/Štimlje and Podujevë/Podujevo.

[15] The JCR (Joint Committee on the Return of Kosovo Serbs) and the RAE Platform for Joint Action processes which existed as the primary fora for co-ordinating issues related to minority return in 2000 and 2001 are discussed in detail in the 7th Minorities Assessment covering the period October 2000–February 2001. The JCR process was functional until December 2001 through the Regional and Local Working Groups and the central Steering Committee. The successor co-ordination structure under the auspices of the UNMIK Office of Returns and Communities (ORC) which was created in December 2001 is discussed later in the chapter.

[16] 130 IDPs returned to Osojane in the fall of 2001, mostly heads of families representing complete families whose members remained in Serbia during the winter months. As the project developed and with the end of winter, more family members arrived and as of the writing of this assessment, a little over 200 returnees were in Osojane. Fifty-five families benefited from reconstruction assistance, while a residual number of returnees representing complete families and already present in the return location are awaiting reconstruction assistance in 2002. The first phase of return will be complemented by a second phase, with return of more IDP families in 2002, the size of which depends on available funding for necessary projects.

[17] Housing reconstruction was funded by EAR (implemented by MoviMundo) and by bilateral donations of the German and French governments (implemented by THW). The Danish Government through DANIDA funded the electricity rehabilitation project (implemented by WPP in co-operation with THW).

[18] Housing repair for the Makresh project was funded by US Government/BPRM (implemented by ARC).

[19] Housing reconstruction in Ljestar/Leshtar was funded by EAR (implemented by MPDL).

[20] Housing reconstruction in Vranjevac/Kodra e Trimave was funded by SIDA (implemented by Erikshjalpen).

[21] These issues were discussed in a lessons learned workshop on minority return planning and implementation co-sponsored by UNHCR and the UNMIK Transitional Department of Finance and Economy on 29 November 2001, which was attended by international agencies, local organisations and minority community representatives.

[22] The levels of reconstruction made available to minority beneficiaries in 2001 illustrate the fact that the Reconstruction Programme as presently funded does not have the response capacity to meet returnee needs. The 2001 programme received funding commitments for approximately 8,500 houses, distributed geographically to specific municipalities. According to the March 2002 report of the Central Housing Committee (Housing and Construction Division, Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning), 7,465 beneficiary households had been approved by Municipal Housing Committees, of which 316 households were ethnic minorities. An additional 55 houses were allocated to minorities in the Osojane return project. Therefore, of the approved beneficiary households it can be roughly estimated that minorities comprised about 4% of total beneficiaries. The majority of these beneficiaries were minorities who never left Kosovo, as opposed to minorities returning from displacement outside of Kosovo.

[23] For example, approximately 30% of THW’s project budget for the Osojane return was used to fund needed infrastructure and community development projects for neighbouring Albanian communities.

[24] The damage assessment is discussed in the chapter on reconstruction.

[25] MNB (S) practices vis-à-vis Kosovo Serb IDP movement between Štrpce/Shtërpcë and Prizren municipalities, and restrictions placed upon Serb movement beyond the Sredska/Sredske checkpoint, are detailed under freedom of movement, paragraph 24.

[26] Section II, paragraph 8 of the Agreement on the President and Government of Kosovo, 28 February 2002.

[27] As of the writing of this document, Povratak had not yet joined the Government, having taken the position during the first months of 2002 that assumption of the leadership of the Ministry designated for the Kosovo Serb coalition (Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development) was conditional upon the creation of an additional ministry with competence on return. Such a demand lacks viability, given that the structure of the Government is pre-determined by the Constitutional Framework and considering that minority return falls under the reserved powers of the SRSG. The SRSG offered to create an inter-ministerial post to be filled by a Kosovo Serb within the Office of the Prime Minister to co-ordinate return issues between all Ministries, and has additionally offered the Kosovo Serbs a post of senior adviser on returns within the Office of the SRSG, who would work closely with UNMIK’s Office on Returns and Communities. It appears as of the publication of this document that this proposal will be accepted by Povratak, and implemented.

[28] Indeed, in a very hopeful sign of the exercise of positive leadership, in April 2002, the Prime Minister gathered all of the Municipal Assembly presidents together to discuss the sole issue of minority integration and return. The Prime Minister asked for the co-operation of the municipal leaders to support return and to engage in the return planning process, underlining the right of all displaced persons of all ethnicities and in all municipalities of Kosovo to be able to return safely, to integrate in Kosovar society, and to repossess their properties.

[29] It must of course always be noted that, despite some perceptions, the current situation in Osojane which is characterised by isolation was never conceived as the end state, and indeed security mechanisms need to be slowly transformed, and planning is underway for such.

[30] deportation of rejected asylum-seekers and individuals who benefitted from temporary protection regimes which have been or may be lifted.



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