Mch 31, 2000Kosovars in Australia scared to go home next week
CANBERRA - Kosovar refugees in Australia who are due to be sent home next week have begged to be allowed to stay, saying their lives could be in danger if they are forced to return.
About 500 Kosovars remain in Australia on temporary safe haven visas. They are the last of about 4,000 taken in last year at the height of the Balkan crisis.
The government announced two weeks ago that they would be returned to Kosovo on April 8 if it was determined safe for them. But one of the Kosovars, Suzana Zymberi, said she would be in fear for her life if forced to return home.
"It's hard for me to stay in Australia," she told ABC radio. "It's 20,000 kilometres from my family and I have no-one from my family here, so I feel very lonely.
"But I have to stay and I cannot say how long I am going to be here."
Zymberi said she witnessed atrocious war crimes in Kosovo and was afraid to go back.
"If I go back to Kosovo my life will be in danger because they are still looking to find the people who seen their faces and know their names and everything."
A family member in Kosovo had been questioned about her whereabouts and her family was urging her not to go back, she said.
Refugee Council of Australia executive director Margaret Piper said the government's process of determining whether it was safe for the Kosovars to return was too simplistic.
"We have a situation where people are precluded by legislation from applying for refugee status," she told ABC radio.
"And what is in fact being used is a simplistic process which does not allow a proper examination of peoples' concerns about returning."
Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said the United Nations High Commission for Refugees had advised it was safe for most Kosovars to return home.
"But because there have been raised some individual concerns, I have agreed that I would examine those claims to see whether or not they were of such a character that I should lift the bar that would preclude the lodgement of any (refugee) application within Australia," MrRuddock told ABC radio.