Questions covered during the debate included: What happens with the dozens of people who land at Prishtina International Airport every day from foreign countries as part of the repatriation programme? Do they have somewhere to go and/or live? Does anyone take repatriated children to school? Does society support repatriated people, or is it something that is done simply because of visa liberalisation?
In order to discuss this issue, Jeta Xharra was joined in the studio by the following:
Verena Knaus, a UNICEF researcher;
Vera Pula, from the Foundation for Open Society;
Daut Qylangjiu, an RTK journalist from the Roma editorial desk;
Sylvian Astier, from the Swiss Embassy, Migration Attaché at the Swiss Embassy; and
Islam Caka, the Director of the Department for Citizenship, Exile and Migration in the Ministry of
Before the debate, BIRN broadcast a documentary discussing the situation on the ground, focusing on repatriated children who, in most cases, do not know any of the languages spoken in Kosovo.
“Several reports of international organisations, such as UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and others have concluded that RAE [Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian] communities are the poorest in Kosovo. It is more difficult for them to be repatriated in Kosovo, due to the fact that they have lived abroad for many years, and they come back without knowing any of the spoken languages in Kosovo. Even worse, they have no homes or shelter. Therefore, they will either have to sell their properties or go back to where they were, or to third countries,” said Mr. Qylangjiu at the beginning of the debate.
Asked if Kosovo has the capacity to respond to all the people being repatriated, Mr. Caka said that “we still have a bad situation, but there is an increasing awareness in our institutions that we have to ‘re-socialise’ these people, and treat them as citizens.”
However, he could not give a straightforward response about the places to which RAE communities are repatriated, and his explanations did not coincide with the reality as presented by Mr. Qylangjiu, a representative of that community.
“Legally, there are 12,000 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in Germany that can be sent back [to Kosovo] any time. But the practice is that it is very difficult to send them back. In the last year, Germany sent back about 133 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children, and this was much less than we hoped for, since lots of people tried to disappear and did not want to come back,” said Ms. Knaus.
Regarding these children, their education and language learning, Ms. Pula said that “most of them do not speak the language. Some language courses were held, but only by NGOs. The courses were not held by the responsible institutions, such as the Ministry of Education, the municipal education directorates or schools.”
Mr. Astier said that “there are more RAE citizens than Albanians in Switzerland, and we know that they need more protection because of their conditions; therefore, they are temporarily admitted. However, I have personally observed that they have places to stay and work in Kosovo. Because of these reasons, I do not see any reason why they need to stay in Switzerland as asylum seekers.”