Serbia + 1 more

UNHCR urges European governments not to send back Kosovo Albanians

UNHCR says climate in Kosovo explosive. Urges European governments not to send back Kosovo Albanians
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday renewed a call on European governments not to send back rejected asylum-seekers from Kosovo. In a letter, delivered to 15 European Union governments and Switzerland, the UN Refugee Agency described the political climate in Kosovo as "explosive."

"Tension is running at fever pitch in many areas," said the letter.

The UNHCR said the security situation in Kosovo had worsened over the past weeks with clashes spreading to new areas.

It said the return of rejected asylum-seekers at this time would pose security risks for those sent back and could also tip the scales toward further violence.

The UN Refugee Agency said the recent incidents affected not only Kosovo Albanians but also Serbs, Montenegrins, Roma and Muslim Slavs.

UNHCR first urged European governments to stop sending back rejected asylum-seekers from Kosovo on 9 March, after a Serbian police crackdown in several Kosovo villages left dozens of people dead and drove many thousands from their homes.

UNHCR said it was grateful to those European states which heeded the appeal.

But it said it was now compelled to repeat the call since hopes for an improvement in the situation had not materialised.

Western Europe has an estimated 150,000 rejected asylum -seekers from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- most of them Kosovo Albanians -- many of whom are in line for return under bilateral arrangements between countries of asylum and the federal Yugoslav government.