Repatriation of Kosovar Refugees
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Liz O'Donnell TD, has announced that 107 Kosovar refugees, who have been based here as part of the humanitarian evacuation programme from Macedonia, will return home at the end of next week.
It will be the first group of Irish-based refugees to return to Kosovo since the end of the conflict and is part of the programme of voluntary returns commenced in mid-July by UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration. The first flight will leave Farranfore for Pristina late
"We are being careful to ensure that all returning refugees are made fully aware of the reality into which they are facing. Full information is being distributed to them which has been compiled by UNHCR personnel on the ground dealing with security issues and entitlements to medical and other assistance in Kosovo. Clearly, we want their decision to return to be voluntary and informed and in the best interests of their families," the Minister said.
An information leaflet has been prepared for all 1,033 Kosovar refugees who have been granted temporary protection in Ireland since May. This outlines their status and entitlements should they decide to stay or return.
"The instinct to return is understandably very strong and, to this end, we are facilitating a "look and see" programme which will enable the head of family to return and make their own assessment of conditions in their home places to help them make up their minds. They will be free to return here within two months and either remain here for the period of their temporary protection or go back with their families during that period," the Minister said.
The Minister said those who opt to stay beyond the temporary protection period can apply in due course to extend this. She said the family reunification entitlements would remain in place.
The Minister also announced repatriation grants of £600 per adult and £300 per child.
"These people who arrived here traumatised and bereft of possessions and who are dependent on the State will need some financial support as they seek to re-build their lives with the help of the agencies already on the ground in Kosovo. I would stress that organisations working in Kosovo are reporting that such assistance is quite limited at the moment where mines and unexploded ordnance still present a threat to returning refugees. A World Health Organisation survey has found that around 150 Kosovars have been killed or maimed by explosions in the past month.