Prishtina [Pristina], 21 May: The representatives of the Ashkali community in Kosova [Kosovo] reacted today against the "forcible" return of members of their community from Germany and other EU countries since the conditions for their return to Kosova have not improved.
PDAShK [Democratic Albanian Ashkali Party Of Kosovo] Chairman Sabit Rrahmoni, who is also a member of the Kosova Assembly, has been following implementation of an agreement that was signed between UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] administration and the German Government on repatriation of all Kosova citizens without a legal status in Germany, including members of the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities.
"A few days ago, Germany repatriated several members of this community, some of whom - three or four families - have been accommodated in tents or camps, as their homes have been destroyed," Rrahmoni said.
According to him, this shows that there are no conditions for the mass return of members of this community to Kosova. "We will oppose the return of our members from the Diaspora until the rest of the displaced in the region - Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia - have returned," the PDAShK leader said.
Otherwise, Rrahmoni said their return would result in a real catastrophe because, according to him, there were many problems in Kosova facing this community and that many of them had not rebuilt their destroyed homes.
In Fushe Kosove [Kosovo Polje], Rrahmoni said, 200 families returned in 2000 and, being unable to rebuild their homes, they were living in the homes of those living abroad. "If the return from the Diaspora continues, then these families will have to vacate those houses and go to Plemetin or be accommodated in other camps, which would, of course, be damaging to the positive ongoing processes in Kosova," Rrahmoni said.
According to the information that the PDAShK has, there are 8,300 members of the Ashkali community in Germany. According to Rrahmoni, there are also about 1,200 members of the Egyptian community and about 3,500 Roma.
The Ashkali leader said that under the agreement they should be repatriated by the end of this year, with most of them being repatriated during the summer.
"It is expected that 500 of them will be repatriated in May, whereas the largest number is expected to return during the summer," Rrahmoni said.
The leader of this community also said that his party was doing its utmost to prevent the repatriation, given that there are no conditions for that. He said that the Kosova Assembly's Communities' Committee had urged the Assembly Presidency to pay a visit to Berlin and ask the German Government directly to stop the repatriation.
Rrahmoni said that this would not affect the process of meeting the standards because, according to him, the return of all refugees is not one of the standards but a right of everyone who wants to return.
The members of the Ashkali, Roma, and Egyptian communities have faced many problems, especially housing problems, in the postwar period. Some of the members of these communities have been accommodated in camps in Plemetin, Kastriot [Obilic], and Mitrovice [Kosovska Mitrovica].
The Kosova Government has promised to close these camps, which have been described as "the shame of Kosova society," by this summer. Deputy Prime Minister Adem Salihaj has said that the Kosova Government had been working hard to close the Plemetin camp as soon as possible, possibly before June, so that this issue could be taken off the government's agenda.
The government's objective, according to Salihaj, is not just to close the camp but also to resolve the housing problem of the families living there.