Wednesday April 19Kosovars face 'shambles' in homeland
Kosovar refugees returned by Australia to their homeland faced a "shambles", deprived of food, shelter or basic services, an Albanian representative said today.
Erik Lloga, who has travelled to war-torn Kosovo, told ABC radio from Pristina that many of the refugees who had lost their homes were receiving no support from aid agencies.
"I must admit I've found that the services on the ground are really quite a shambles," Lloga said.
"What struck me was the disorganisation on the ground," he said.
"Some people were told they could have food - well, one of them was told - for up to a year, as well as accommodation free of charge ....
"But the rest of them were simply left out there with no knowledge about who to turn to," he said.
"Those services, even basic information, .... has not been made available to them - simple as that.
"In one case, I was surprised to find a young man who was from eastern Kosova who was simply told he could go anywhere he liked, and that was that," he said.
Refugees who had no money were not given any and those that had some Australian dollars were not able to exchange them, Lloga reported.
Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said support for those returning was an obligation for the international community.
Ruddock told ABC radio it was naive to think Australia could arrange to settle people from "half-way round the world".
"The point that we've made is that people are returning in a situation which is difficult and one in which we are not on the ground but the international community is providing an enormous amount of support.
"In any situation after national emergencies or even in a refugee situation, the ability to put people back in the situation that they were in before all this occurred is just not there."
Ruddock confirmed that no money had been given to the refugees because "substantial amounts" had been offered if they returned to Kosovo last year.
Ruddock agreed it was possible that some Kosovars had no money when they reached their homeland if they had not saved the money they had earned in Australia.
He said there were no Australian diplomatic staff in Pristina because the Australian embassy was in Belgrade.
Pressed to say how this would help refugees in Pristina, Ruddock said: "I don't think that's our responsibility, quite frankly."
Ruddock said the only test of whether refugees should be returned was whether or not they faced persecution.
"You can't expect that people are going to have their houses rebuilt, their jobs lined up again for them in a situation like this," he said.