A total of 273 people returned to Kosovo in 2020, which is a devastating figure, the Kosovo Minister of Communities and Returns, Dalibor Jevtic said at the annual online press conference.
Jevtic said that 2020 was a specific year, bearing in mind the fact that the COVID-19 outbreak affected the operation of the ministry. He talked about what the Ministry of Communities and Returns had done in 2020 despite, as he said, the technical blockade.
„Together with partners from the European Union and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), but also other international organizations, we have continued to work on the process of return and the reintegration of displaced persons. We have started with the construction of 128 houses, 109 of which have been completed to date, and 19 will be completed in January,“ said Jevtic, noting that the houses in question were built in 12 municipalities in Kosovo.
The largest number of houses (93) were built for Serbian families, for a total of 426 users from this ethnic community. Other houses were built for the needs of Roma families (7), 4 for Ashkali families, 3 for Egyptian families, and one each for a Bosniak and a Gorani family.
A total of 273 people returned to Kosovo in 2020 – 133 Serbs, 42 Gorani, 36 Roma, 33 Egyptians, 23 Ashkali, and 5 Albanians.
In addition to building new homes, he also added that this ministry paid the rent of the returnees whose housing issues had not been resolved.
Furthermore, this ministry also worked on providing support to returnee families to open their own businesses, as well as by donating furniture and household appliances to 77 families and construction material to 111 families. It also completed various infrastructure projects in Gracanica, Novo Brdo, Strpce, Pec and Istok valued at €188,604 – Jevtic revealed.
He, however, underlined that he was not satisfied with the returns process, adding that both economic and security situations have a great impact on this process, as well as the political instability in Kosovo.
In the previous period, this ministry recorded 62 incidents committed against returnees – 15 cases of theft, 18 physical attacks, 4 arson cases, 7 cases of destruction of religious sites, 13 cases of destruction of property, and 1 case of destruction of a public building, Jevtic underlined, noting that the responsibility for protecting the returnees lies with the institutional system.
„It is unfortunate that in the 21st century, these people remain unprotected, especially in cases when the perpetrators are known, but apart from apprehension and informative conversation, no further reaction to their crimes arrived,“ he said, adding that such examples encourage others to do the same.
Budget cut by almost half
Meanwhile, the ministry also faced problems with budget implementation.
„We initially had an approved budget of over €7 million in 2020, but after the first government was formed, the budget was reduced by almost 50% – to 4.7 million,“ he said, adding that the ministry’s budget for next year has also been reduced.
According to Jevtic, 90% of the planned budget was realized because certain projects were delayed due to the technical blockade, during which each financial transaction necessitated the approval of the Ministry of Finance.
Excluded from negotiations on returnees
Although the return process was discussed in two parallel processes between Belgrade and Pristina – in Brussels and Washington – no concrete results have been visible so far.
„After the Washington agreement, the Government of Kosovo initiated certain things, but after the elections in the United States, there were no initiatives to realize this issue,“ Jevtic said.
He also stressed that, even though the return process was discussed in Brussels, the Ministry of Communities and Returns did not participate in any way in these negotiations led by the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Avdullah Hoti, and coordinated by Skender Hyseni.
Nevertheless, the ministry intends to launch return initiatives outside of these processes – he added, citing the Skopje process as one of the ways the issue of displaced persons could be solved.
„When we talk about returns, we have to be realistic, the usurped property is a special problem,“ he emphasized.
The representatives of media outlets reporting in Albanian, despite being invited to attend the conference and the fact that Albanian translation was provided for them, did not respond to the invitation, the organizer stated.
Minister Jevtic also alerted that media outlets reporting in Albanian do not publish the press releases of this ministry, especially not those related to attacks against returnees.
Collective centers in the north to be closed as well
The Minister of Communities and Returns, Dalibor Jevtic also said that in addition to the collective center in Strpce, which was closed today, collective centers in other municipalities will also be closed.
„We have agreements with the municipalities of Gracanica, Leposavic, Zvecan, and Zubin Potok, and the European Union and the Danish Refugee Council are our main partners in these projects,“ he said, adding that there are currently 12 formal and informal collective centers in Kosovo.
In all of these municipalities, apartments will be built which, although owned by the municipality, will be given for long-term use to internally displaced persons.
Currently, 87 internally displaced families with 175 members are living in five collective centers in Brezovica, while 64 families are living in two collective centers in Leposavic, and 38 internally displaced families in two collective centers in Zvecan.
Jevtic stated that 21 families of internally displaced persons have temporary accommodation in Gracanica.
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