Special press briefing on the UNMIK Regulation No. 2005/16 on the movement of persons into and out of Kosovo and its implementation

Report
from UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo
Published on 22 Jun 2005
Annamyriam Roccatello - Head of Legal Policy Unit/UNMIK Department of Justice

Neeraj Singh - UNMIK Spokesperson

Neeraj: I have great pleasure in welcoming here today Ms Annamyriam Roccatello, Head of Legal Policy Unit of the Department of Justice.

She is here to do a special briefing on the regulation on the movement of persons into and out of Kosovo, that created some confusion in the media initially, when we first announced it. As you know, the regulation will be coming into force on the 1st of July. Detailed procedures have been worked out and the intention of this briefing is to inform you about these procedures. There is also a handout with frequently asked questions, a lot of them based on the questions you have asked before, and we have that in English, Serbian and Albanian placed outside so you can pick it up after the press conference. So I give the floor to Annamyriam and after her statement you may ask her some questions. We will continue with the weekly briefing after that. Thank you.

Annamyriam Roccatello - Head of Legal Policy Unit/UNMIK Department of Justice UNMIK Regulation No. 2005/16 will enter into force on 1st of July 2005 and will be accompanied by an implementing Administrative Direction. This new legislation introduces measures aimed at improving the border controls primarily directed at combating organized crime operations and human trafficking.

It is not meant to create obstacles for legitimate travellers and will simply formalize the practice adopted by UNMIK border police until now.

No person will be required to submit a written application to enter Kosovo.

Certain categories of individuals, namely: residents of Kosovo, UN personnel, KFOR personnel, their spouses or children, persons holding a travel document of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, official of intergovernmental organizations or foreign liaison offices, Macedonian and Albanian citizens will enter into Kosovo on the sole basis of their travel documents.

Other visitors explain to the border police officer at the point of entry the reasons for their travel into Kosovo and, if requested, produce the documentation, which is required to demonstrate the purpose of their visit. Legitimate purpose is considered: tourism, studying, employment or other business, transit and obviously family visit.

In normal circumstances, foreigners allowed to enter into Kosovo will be permitted to stay for up to 90 days. Persons who may wish to prolong their staying beyond 90 days will need to request an extension at the Office for Registration of Foreigners that will be opened in the Main Police HQ in Pristina.

A multi entry system has been also designed for foreigners who may need to frequently travel to Kosovo such as, persons working for profit or not for profit organizations. Such persons will be entitled to apply for an identification card, which will be valid for up to one year.

Persons can be denied entry into Kosovo on the usual grounds applied internationally, i.e. if:

a) they visibly suffer from a communicable disease;

b) they have committed or they are affiliated with terrorist activities;

c) they are a member of an organized or terrorist organization;

d) they will engage in acts of violence or they are attempting to enter another country illegally.

Or, if being a visitor, as defined by the Regulation, he/she will not be able to satisfy the border police officer of the legitimacy of the travel.

Any decision to deny entry or extension of staying will be given in writing.

The violation of the provisions of the Regulation, particularly giving false information to the border police, remain in Kosovo without a valid authorization or use a false or improperly obtained document will constitute a minor offence punishable by a fine up to 1,000 euros; a term of imprisonment of up to 30 days and/or an order to leave Kosovo for a period of 6 months to 3 years.

Further information on this subject can be found at the UNMIK Web site that will contain a link to Information on Regulation No. 2005/16.

The UNMIK Border Police has also opened a specific e-mail address to which persons and organizations can request clarifications. The e-mail address is: movementofpersons@hotmail.com

Questions:

Q: When you announced this new regulation, there have been some troubles with Macedonians. Have you ironed out the differences, are they going to accept these new rules. And my second question, you said that persons who will be denied entry into Kosovo are persons identified as related to organized crime or terrorist organization. How are you going to do that, I mean what equipment will you put in use at the border crossings to know which persons belong to organized crime or trafficking networks?

Annamyriam: Several meetings and contacts have been established with the Macedonian authorities to clarify the implementation of the regulation and I trust that there is no problem on that side. As I said, Macedonian citizens will be entering into Kosovo on the sole basis of their passport. And again, recognizing that there are certain categories of individuals that you may define as particularly vulnerable, like young students that have enrolled in schools in Kosovo; the border police has already prepared identification documents so that these young students will have a document they can produce at the border even instead of their passport, because we are talking normally about very young individuals who may not have proper passports. We are already aware of those individuals, we see them coming every day, so there will not be a problem. Regarding the question on organized crime and terrorist activity, the system that our border police already apply is the same as used in many other jurisdictions.

There is an IT system that is called the PISCES, that is designed to keep record of the individuals entering into Kosovo, to determine patterns for example, and also to keep record of information regarding criminal activities. It is normally fed by other law enforcement agencies and justice institutions around the world. That is obviously the main basis to recognize an individual, such as a person who may have a criminal history. You may be aware that INTERPOL has a very sophisticated database that collects information on international arrest warrants for example, so it is just a matter of linking this information to the proper system.

Q: You said that the citizens of Macedonia and Albania can come here with their travel documents. However, it does not go for other citizens of Balkan countries. Why are for example Bulgarians discriminated on this basis? Why can Bulgarians or anybody else from other Balkan countries not come?

Annamyriam: Well, I would not consider it discrimination. It is a common practice in each jurisdiction to establish more favourable regimes for neighbouring countries and the practice that we have established until now even without a proper legal framework is that Albania and Macedonia have recognized and made travel documents allowing Kosovans to enter into their territory on the basis of their sole documents. So this is simply a formalization of the status quo. Bulgarian citizens that have an interest to come into Kosovo on a regular basis will be still allowed to enter exactly as before and the only difference will be that they will need to present their travel documents and give an explanation of their visit when they enter. Please remember that through PISCES, the system that I mentioned before, border police has already stored and gained enough information on several individuals who come frequently to Kosovo on business or any other legitimate interest. So they know already if there is an individual of Bulgarian nationality or Croatian nationality that comes here for business or for visiting a friend etc. The same in particular for individuals who come more frequently - I would just remind you of the multi-entry system: Bulgarians, for example, who have employment here that make them come regularly can always apply to have this identification card, so that their entry would be even more facilitated.

Q: This regulation that you announced is it in accordance with the system of entry and exit of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro? You said it could not be in a different way, because otherwise it would be a violation of resolution 1244. Why is the visa valid for the citizens of Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia and not for Macedonia and Albania? What is the motive for this? Which authority in UNMIK is actually to make an estimate as to whether I, as a journalist, who came here to tell and write the truth about the work of UNMIK, will not be allowed into Kosovo because I come to undermine the mandate and the objectives of UNMIK. I am quoting here, is Nebojsa Covic going to be forbidden to come to Kosovo?

Annamyriam: I will try to answer as best as I can. The system that we are introducing, as I said, is the formalization of the system that has already been in place. As you know, UNMIK has the authority to administer the territory of Kosovo, and it was appropriate to have a system that would enable the border police to control, with a legal basis, who is coming into the territory. Now, Croatian or Bosnian citizens who wish to enter into Kosovo will not be under any more abusive or invasive system than presenting a valid passport and give an explanation why they wish to enter into Kosovo. A journalist, who works here, although we are talking about foreign journalists only, because clearly citizens of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro will enter on the basis of their identity card, but a foreign journalist just needs to show the passport and possibly the identification card that qualifies him as a journalist and explain to the border police that he is coming for a press conference, for an interview or a reportage, whatever the case may be.

Q: I think that you have not completed your answer. Which authority is going to check whether somebody is coming to Kosovo to undermine the mandate and the objectives and the purpose of the mandate of UNMIK. What authority is going to do that?

Annamyriam: The competent authority to make determinations on who is authorized to enter, remain the border police. And the border police makes such a determination on the basis of information that is shared with other law enforcement agencies throughout the world and that relate to criminal activity.

Neeraj: Can I just clarify, I think the implication of your question, from the way you put it, it seems you are misunderstanding what amounts to undermining the mandate of UNMIK under Resolution 1244. If there is a journalist who comes here and writes articles critical of UNMIK that does not amount to undermining the mandate of UNMIK. If somebody makes a public statement democratically criticizing a policy of UNMIK, that does not amount to undermining the mandate of UNMIK. What undermines the mandate are statements or actions that are directed at subverting the society for example or at creating public disorder situations and so on. So you should not misunderstand that clause.

Q: I was just wondering whether you have decided whether there should be a stamp in the passport or some other form of documentation?

Annamyriam: The stamp would be applied to the so-called visitors - an entry stamp - and the date of the entry stamp is the date from which the period of 90 days start running. That is for people who enter and do not fall into the categories of people who enter normally and by definition have a right to enter, particularly Kosovo residents and so on.

Q: What about the multi-entry system and identification cards for foreigners? Will that be longer than 90 days so you will enter first with a visitor's visa for 90 days...(interruption)... you have to come to Kosovo to apply for identification card.. And then, that would last how long that identification card?

Annamyriam: Please do not use or think about a visa regime, okay. But of course you are right, a person who enters for the first time will receive a stamp that allows that person to stay for 90 days. Then, for the reasons I explained before, if he or she wishes to have an identification card, can apply for that card to the designated office at the main head quarters of police at Pristina. That card will be valid for up to one year. The reason is that we have recognized the need for certain individuals who work here and conduct their normal activities.

Q: Will this stamp in any way look like a visa?

Annamyriam: It is very similar to the stamp you are receiving now when you come to the Pristina airport.

Q: You may know that a foreigner living in Pristina, if he wants to go to Serbia, he cannot cross the border directly from Kosovo to Serbia. Will the Serbian authorities at the border recognize that stamp?

Annamyriam: I cannot speak about the Serbian authorities. If you enter into Kosovo and you fall in the category of visitor, you will receive a stamp. If an individual, however, enters into Serbia, and wishes or needs to come to Kosovo through the boundary for legitimate reason, in order not to invalidate his or her valid Serbian stamp, we have designed an alternative card that will be put into his passport when he enters the Kosovo territory, and the stamp will be placed on that card so that the Serbian entry stamp will not be invalidated or compromised.

Q: Are you thinking to, say, make wider the borders, because I think that people will wait there for a couple of hours?

Annamyriam: Yes, this is something that the border police has worked extensively on. We have collected statistics on the numbers of entries during the last 12 months. So in the border Gen Jankovic there will be a third line. One line would be dedicated to Kosovo residents, Macedonians citizens, UNMIK and so forth. At the airport you know how many booths they already have, so we do not expect any problems. And after the implementation of this regulation, if needed, I am sure the police will consider the enlargement of certain entry points.

Q: Does this mean that we will now have two entries, one for Kosovans and the other one for foreigners? And who would be the more privileged ones?

Annamyriam: There will be a fast line. This is the purpose, and I am talking specifically of the Gen Jankovic, which is the most used point of entry. That border will have a third line, and one of the 3 lines will be only for Kosovo residents and Macedonian nationals and UNMIK and KFOR personnel. This way the check will be easier.

Q: Have you consulted with authorities in Belgrade on adopting this regulation in order to facilitate the movement of people and goods? It seems that Kosovo is going to become a closed territory, especially for people who come from Serbia to Kosovo, who practically have no chance to come in. I mean for example foreign citizens who come by air to Belgrade, they cannot come here to Kosovo or the other way around?

Annamyriam: This was probably a misunderstanding and I am sorry if I was not clear enough. The entry into Kosovo is certainly allowed from any point of entry including the boundary with Serbia proper. Foreigners who enter first into Serbia proper will certainly be allowed to enter into the Kosovan territory if they have a legitimate interest to enter, and recognizing the importance of not compromising the valid Serbian stamp the stamp will be placed on an additional paper, which will be inserted into their passport for the time they stay in Kosovo. So there is no difference whatsoever from the previous regime. It is simply meant to be better organized and to have a legal basis.

Q: Why is it a problem for foreign citizens who come to Pristina, to go to Serbia proper. For example somebody from Germany comes to the airport in Pristina and after cannot go to Serbia at official crossings. Have you cooperated with official authorities in Belgrade regarding this regulation, has there been any consultations?

Annamyriam: Individuals who come into Kosovo will certainly be allowed to enter into Serbia if they meet the requirement of the Serbian law. They come to Pristina through the airport, they stay as long as they need to stay, and they can take a flight back or go through Kosovo to reach Serbia proper. Obviously, they will need to have either a visa or to be allowed according to the legislation of Serbia proper. This is exactly what used to be before and this legislation does not change at all the regime. Regarding the consultation, the Serbian authorities are going to be informed about the entry into force of the legislation, it will be made public also through our office in Belgrade.

Q. I just want to ask you personally Neeraj...(interruption)...If you come to Kosovo through Serbia proper, or when you are in Kosovo and want to enter Serbia proper, do you do that directly from Kosovo or do you have to go back to Macedonia and go to Serbia proper? Because you need the valid stamp and Serbian authorities do not recognize the valid stamp of UNMIK.

Neeraj: I have never personally come to Kosovo through Serbia or the other way round, so I can't really answer your question. The bottom line is, as Annamyriam has repeatedly said, that there is no change from the past practice. It is a measure to formalize the existing arrangement to better organize it, and that is basically what must be understood. There is nothing new, of course procedurally there are some requirements (for some categories of persons), but nothing new substantively from the past practice. Thank you very much, Annamyriam, for this comprehensive briefing. We will now continue with our regular weekly briefing.