Remaining Kosovar refugees to be forced out of Switzerland

GENEVA, May 1, 2000 -- (AFP) Switzerland ended on Sunday the application period during which Kosovar refugees could request financial aid to return voluntarily to their homeland, with forced repatriations set to begin in June.

Some 21,000 Kosovars have already left Switzerland under Bern's repatriation program and more than 10,000 have registered in recent weeks to leave the country before the end of May, according to government data.

In the program's first phase that ended last year, the ethnic Albanian refugees left Switzerland with 2,000 Swiss francs (1,250 euros, 1,140 dollars) per adult and 1,000 Swiss francs per child.

Starting in 2000, refugees were eligible to receive half the initial amount, or 1,000 Swiss francs per adult and 500 francs per child.

All those who have not reported to Swiss authorities have been asked to leave before the end of May or risk forced repatriation, Swiss authorities said.

Urs Hadorn, the Swiss official in charge of the refugee situation, said some 20,000 of the 50,000 ethnic Albanians who fled Kosovo last year have not volunteered to return to the troubled Serbian province.

A national conference on asylum matters, chaired by Swiss Justice Minister Ruth Metzler, is scheduled for next Thursday in the Swiss capital Bern, where cantonal representatives are expected to decide how to proceed with forced repatriations.

But Hadorn told the Sonntagszeitung newspaper that he expected half of the 20,000 refugees still in Switzerland to disappear, return to Kosovo without telling the Swiss government or remain in the country as illegal aliens.

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