Wednesday, March 30, 2005

SRSG expresses confidence on achieving major progress in returns soon during his visit to IDP centres in Serbia

PRISTINA – SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen today visited two IDP centres in Bujanovac, Serbia. He listened to the individual and collective problems and grievances of displaced persons at the Motel Camping collective centre with some 70 Kosovo Serb residents, and Camp Salvatore, a settlement for 240 persons from 49 Roma families originating from Gjilan/Gnjilane.

Encouraged by his interactions with the IDPs, the SRSG expressed confidence that “a major step forward could be achieved in return of displaced persons in the next six months.”

“I came here today because the return of the IDPs is one of the top priorities in implementation of standards in Kosovo, and is one of my top priorities. I came here first and foremost to listen to the displaced persons and I had the opportunity to listen to quite a few,” the SRSG said, recalling his long experience of 25 years working with refugees that helps him better understand their plight.

“Some of the displaced persons were very angry and I understand their anger,” the SRSG told journalists at the end of his trip, “I am also angry, because it is a shame for all of us that, six years after the end of the war in Kosovo, people still have to live in those kind of conditions.”

“Return is first and foremost a matter of human beings. Return is first and foremost a responsibility on behalf of all of us towards the people we met this morning that we don’t leave them in those kind of conditions for much longer,” Mr Jessen-Petersen said.

Refering to his visit to Belgrade earlier this week, the SRSG said that he appealed to leaders in Belgrade to be “more careful and more responsible with their statements on the security situation in Kosovo”. At the same time he stressed, “In Kosovo we have to work first of all to improve the freedom of movement in areas where that is still a problem.”

The SRSG observed that very few of the displaced persons he met today expressed security concerns as an obstacle to their return. “And they are right, because the security situation has improved considerably in Kosovo in the past 12 months,” he said. However, noting that all of them talked about problems of property and housing, the SRSG said, “It is clear to me that we have to work much, much harder on resolving the very complex and difficult issues linked to property,” adding that he saw “no major reason why we cannot promote the return of many of the displaced persons today”.

The SRSG welcomed the readiness of Belgrade to start the working group for dialogue on returns and, in the context of promoting returns, he said, “Most importantly, all actors must work together: the institutions in Kosovo; the municipal authorities in Kosovo; the authorities in Belgrade; the international organizations – UNMIK, UNHCR, UNDP – and the internally displaced persons.”

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