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Switzerland tells Kosovar refugees to return home by May 2000

Kosovar refugees have to head home from Switzerland by the end of next May, the Swiss government said Wednesday, offering financial help to those who leave soon.

This content was published on August 11, 1999 - 17:41

Kosovar refugees have to head home from Switzerland by the end of next May, the Swiss government said Wednesday, offering financial help to those who leave soon.

The ruling affects nearly 65,000 Kosovars who fled to Switzerland to escape the fighting between Serbs and Albanians in the southern Yugoslav province.

"Now that the fighting has ended and international troops are stationed there for protection, the return to Kosovo is defensible," the government said in a statement.

It said it had lifted Kosovar war refugees' collective permission to enter the country as of August 16, but would still give people until May 31, 2000 to leave.

Along with Germany, Switzerland has taken in the highest number of refugees fleeing the Kosovo conflict. Kosovar refugees started returning from Switzerland last month.

Adults who volunteer to leave before the end of the year will get SFr2,000 ($1,300) and children SFr1,000 ($666) in financial aid. Those refugees who return between January and May next year will receive a reduced payout, the level of which has yet to be decided.

The money is handed over in cash after arrival, as well as a provision of basic building materials so that the former refugees can repair their houses or build shelters.

Refugees who commit crimes in Switzerland, threaten or attack others, or otherwise violate their status will be forcibly repatriated as soon as possible, it said.

From staff and wire reports.

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