New reintegration approach enhances hopes for repatriated


A government programme helps reintegrate Kosovars by finding housing and employment.

By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 28/11/12


An apartment complex in Pristina. A government programme is intended to help displaced Kosovars to find employment and housing. [AFP]

The latest Kosovo government rearrangement of its repatriation and reintegration programme is helping displaced people to restart life in the homeland after unsuccessful refugee-seeking attempts throughout European countries.

An initial welfare package assistance containing basic food products for six months has been expanded to include housing assistance, help in finding jobs and training programs.

The programme is important because it directly affects the country's visa liberalisation process with the EU. The European Commission has pledged 63 million euros to support Kosovo's efforts to implement its EU reform agenda, including the readmission and reintegration.

More than 3,300 people returned to Kosovo as part of the repatriation programme in 2012. The government has signed readmission agreements with 15 other countries, mostly in the EU. During the first 10 months of this year, it brought close to 4,000 Kosovo nationals back to their home country.

Dealing with the issue is a key condition that Pristina must meet in order to launch a dialogue with the EU on visa liberalisation. Kosovo is currently the only Balkan country excluded from the EU's free travel zone.

"We are aware that whatever we could offer to them, most of them would have been much satisfied if they could have resolved their status in European countries," Artan Duraku, acting director of the department for reintegration, told SETimes.

Ismet Berisha, a Kosovo Roma from western town of Gjakova, was forced to return to his homeland in December 2009 after being a refugee in Germany for two decades. He will move into a house, thanks to the government programme, in a few weeks.

"The fact that the government is offering me a house makes me very pleased and with optimism after a period of depression following the return," Berisha, a father of six, all between the ages of 2 and 16, told SETimes.

The repatriation is implemented in accordance with memorandums of understanding that Kosovo signed will European countries hosting Kosovo citizens without resolved status. Reintegrating them in the society is difficult for Kosovo institutions despite the progress, especially when families are returned against their will.

"In this regard we encourage European countries to stimulate voluntarily return for those people, because in that way they are better prepared for the reintegration," Duraku said.

Skender Haliti is another repatriated Kosovar that will soon restart his life in a new house. His four-member family lived in Bosnia since 1998 before being forced to return to Kosovo in late 2010.

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"The construction is in the final phase and in few weeks I'm going to resettle there," Haliti, of Skenderaj, told SETimes. "I'm happy with the house. Obviously it will offer a solid accommodation."

Duraku said construction of 45 homes is in the final phase, while 42 others have already been built. The repatriation programme is assisting 270 families to find work, offering training to 116 people and housing assistance to 250 other families.

Syzana Bytyqi, the press and information officer in the EU office in Pristina, told SETimes that the government has already submitted to the European Commission its first report on visa liberalization and that an EC assessment mission has been on assignment in Kosovo.

"The commission will now need sufficient time to digest and analyse a wide range of inputs, including the government's report, reports drafted by experts visiting Kosovo and other inputs from EU agencies and EULEX, therefore it is too early to make any comments at this stage," Bytyqi said.

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