UNHCR: Returns to Kosovo halted

BELGRADE -- UNHCR office chief in Serbia Eduardo Arboleda says that after the Kosovo UDI, "the return of the displaced persons literally stopped".

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians unilaterally proclaimed independence in February 2008, and last year, according to UNHCR, 631 persons returned to Kosovo.

184 of them were assisted by UNHCR, he explained.

According to Arboleda, the UN agency cannot solve security problems, "and it's clear that there is frustration of the IDPs because of everything that's been going on in Žač."

The village in Kosovo, near Istok, has seen days of ethnic Albanian protests against a group of Serb returnees there.

Arboleda also blamed the displaced persons for the low rate of returns, saying that many do not accept to return under conditions offered to them, "they want really new houses and cable TV with Serb channels".

"We are under obligation to offer assistance to each returnee, but there are conditions – UNHCR is not a development agency, we can only repair houses that were damaged slightly, and if there is a large number of houses, we must make the international community participate much more in repairing those heavily damaged, completely destroyed houses, which unfortunately are the ones where most returnees want to go," he was quoted as saying.

The UNHCR website says that on August 1, 2009, there were 205,835 registered Serb IDPs from Kosovo, now residing in other parts of Serbia.

Earlier reports suggested that more than 20,000 were also IDPs inside Kosovo.