Bavaria expels 50 'criminal' Kosovars

MUNICH, May 5, 2000 -- (AFP) Fifty former refugees from Kosovo convicted of criminal offences have been deported and taken back to Yugoslav territory by special charter plane, the Bavarian interior ministry announced Thursday.

The 49 men and one woman, who had been found guilty of offences including drugs, robbery and assault causing bodily harm, were put on the plane which landed in Pristina Wednesday, the ministry said in a communiqué.

It was the first time the Bavarian authorities had used a private charter plane for such expulsions, although the southern German state has already expelled 60 other convicted Kosovars, the statement said.

Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein warned that "the legal obligation" of former refugees from Kosovo to leave the country "will be rigorously applied and continue to be clearly expressed through systematic expulsions."

The statement said those under obligation to leave had the possibility of returning voluntarily by taking up offers of support from the federal and regional authorities.

"Whoever does not do this is consciously reckoning with expulsion," Beckstein said.

The statement said 5,805 Kosovars had already voluntarily returned home by air and that since April 20 they also had the possibility or returning by land.

German courts ruled at the end of February that refugees from Kosovo no longer had right to remain, on the basis that they no longer faced persecution in their home country.

In Germany, the regional authorities have immigration responsibilities, and as with earlier waves of refugees from the ex-Yugoslavia, their forced return has begun with criminal offenders.

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