florian schneider on Mon, 12 Jun 2000 20:08:37 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> UK Kosovo refugees 'disappear'


Sunday, 11 June, 2000, 10:34 GMT 11:34 

UK Kosovo refugees 'disappear'

 Kosovan families fled the destruction of their villages Up to 2,500
refugees from Kosovo who fled to Britain last summer cannot now be
traced, the Home Office has admitted. 

 Some of them are thought to have gone into hiding as their permits to
stay in the UK expire.

 The situation is potentially embarrassing for Home Secretary Jack Straw
who had promised all Kosovo refugees would be returned home once their
12-month leave to stay ended. 

 More than 4,000 Kosovans were given sanctuary in Britain last April as
they escaped Serbian aggression in the former Yugoslavia. 

 'Significant proportion'

 Unlike asylum seekers from other countries, they did not have to
register their whereabouts with the authorities but were expected to
return home at the end of their year-long permits. 

 By 1 June this year the Home Office said 1,527 refugees had gone back
to Kosovo under a government-funded voluntary repatriation programme. 

 A further 410 and their dependants had sought extensions to their
exceptional leave or were claiming asylum. 

 But a Home Office spokesman was unable to say how many of the remaining
2,409 were in reception centres or refugee accommodation, only that it
was a "significant proportion". 

 The Home Office said: "We very much hope that having enjoyed the
hospitality of this country the remainder will return voluntarily when
their leave expires." 

 'Empty promise'

 However, agencies including the Red Cross and the Refugee Council say
many refugees want to stay in Britain and some will be working illegally
on the black market. 

 Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said the situation proved the need
for all asylum seekers to be detained on entering the country. 

 "Jack Straw said last year that we were offering these people leave to
stay for 12 months. That is now exposed as a completely empty promise,"
she told The Sunday Telegraph. 

 "He made that promise in the full knowledge that he would not be able
to find these refugees or take any action against them. 

 "That is precisely why we want universal detention of asylum seekers."

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