Returnee safety: interethnic incidents or crimes against property


Translation provided by KoSSev 

Returnee households in the municipalities of Pec/Peja, Istok, Klina and Gorazdevac were targeted often by burglars in the last number of months. Several returnee homes were burned under suspicious circumstances, while some of them were stoned and damaged. Police often classify such cases as a crime against property – not as an inter-ethnic incidents.

In January, the household tools of Miomir Ribac from the returnee village of Drsnik near Klina were stolen. He noticed his missing tools in the morning after which he called the police in Klina.

„I wanted to use the angle grinder to cut some steel bars, but there was no grinder. I looked for my welding machine, but it was gone, my cousin’s tools – gone, drill – gone, the extension cable – gone. And I knew that someone had robbed me. I reported it to the police, the police came, they filed a report, took some photographs…,” Miomir Ribac told Radio Gorazdevac.

According to a US State Department report, in 2018, the return process in some parts of Kosovo was marked by security incidents. At a conference organized by the NGO ‘Center for Minority Communities’ Rights’, a Kosovo Police spokesperson for the Peja/Pec region, Xhevat Ibraj said that, according to statistics, there were no interethnic incidents in 2019.

„As far as the safety situation is concerned, we can say that the situation is good. We have freedom of movement, as do other minority communities. And most importantly, we have had no multi-ethnic incidents in the last nine months. Crimes against property continue and this is a challenge for the police as well, but they are not ethnically motivated,” Ibraj said.

According to UNHCR, however, inter-ethnic incidents happened in this period. This agency recorded twenty-three cases of violence against Serbs and one incident involving returnees from the Roma community.

Director of Communities and Returns in the Municipality of Klina, Silvija Raskovic said the problem is that cases are not always classified as inter-ethnic.

„You always have ordinary thefts. When a returnee household is a target of theft, then we have to characterize it as inter-ethnic. No matter how the police classify it, for us – it is interethnic. The returnee came to his property to harvest, to live, to keep that land, and then these things happen to him. This is not a good thing, not only for him personally, but for the returnee population as a whole here in the Municipality of Klina,” Silvija Raskovic told Radio Gorazdevac.

Raskovic emphasized that the only solution to eliminate such incidents is to respect the law, which should be equal for all.

„We would be better off and the returnees would also have better lives if the laws were equal for everyone. But now they are constantly afraid of their homes being stoned, robbed. They go to Serbia for a day to get some paperwork done or for treatment or for various reasons, and when they return home, they find that their house was robbed. This should be resolved by the (state) top officials – the law should be equal for everyone, whether for an Albanian or a Serb or someone from another ethnic communities, it should not matter at all,” Raskovic underlined.

Security is a key factor for the return and every incident sends a negative message – a Drsnik village returnee, Miomir Ribac said, adding that the sustainability of returns is highly jeopardized.

„The returns were especially successful in Drsnik, but their sustainability is not. Then aid started arriving and that is when they started grabbing everything for themselves, some fights started – as I was informed, they won’t give a tractor to anyone but themselves,” said Ribac.

According to a last year’s OSCE mission report titled „Voluntary Return to Kosovo Assessment“, “incidents in returnee lo are more frequent in places with a more significant return rate,” such is the case in the municipalities of Pec/Peja, Istok and Klina.

Radio Goraždevac

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