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Volume 11, No.1 Spring 2008

Safer Returns to Kosovo

"We hope to stay here and start from the beginning. I hope more people will return, and my children will not be alone." Hopeful words from Vinka, pictured above with her husband, Sasa and twin sons. The family recently returned to their hometown in Kosovo after living in central Serbia since the 1999 conflict. With the help of IOCC and Visoki Decani Monastery, the family has received appliances and basic food supplies. Photo credit: N. Prelevic/IOCC Serbia

Kosovo and Metohija, Serbia — "We are here with our sons. We hope to stay here and start from the beginning. I hope more people will return, and my children will not be alone." Hopeful words from a woman named Vinka who returned with her husband and twin eight-year-old sons to their home town of Klina in Kosovo. The family fled Kosovo during the 1999 conflict and lived eight years in central Serbia. Her husband, Sasa, was able to find some construction work, and that plus some humanitarian aid enabled them to rent a modest house. Their dream, however, was to go home, and in September 2007, with no jobs and no prospects for finding work, they returned to Klina.

Nine years after the conflict ended in Kosovo, about 15,000 of the estimated 230,000 internally displaced persons living in Serbia and Montenegro have returned to Kosovo. IOCC Belgrade, in partnership with the Visoki Decani Monastery, recently contributed to the return process of Vinka and Sasa, and two other families, by providing them with household appliances and basic food supplies.

None of the three families have been able to find work, but they say that the moral support of Visoki Decani and IOCC gives them hope. Most are surrounded by ethnic Albanian neighbors who have welcomed them and invited them to their homes. However, the families say they are fearful because of the unresolved status of Kosovo.

"There continue to be serious barriers for minority returns including freedom of movement, access to housing, employment opportunities, public services and the attitude of the receiving community," says IOCC Belgrade Program Manager Nenad Prelevic. "Nevertheless," he continued, "the security situation and the willingness of some local administrations to protect minority returns have improved since 1999 and this has allowed for safer returns."

"Without the support of Visoki Decani, we wouldn’t be here at all," said Dragomir, who along with his wife and two children also returned to Klina and received aid from IOCC. "Our whole family would have returned back to central Serbia a long time ago."

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