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Kosovo: Germany Continues To Deport Albanians

Munich, 13 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Germany has decided that despite the Serb crackdown in Kosovo there is no need for stopping the deportation of Kosovo Albanians who have been refused political asylum.

The decision was taken by the interior ministers of the 16 German provinces at a meeting in Mainz. The ministers agreed that the provinces should decide individually whether or not to stop the deportations. In general, provinces governed by the Social Democratic Party have temporarily stopped deportations. Most of those continuing deportations are governed by the right-of-center Christian Democrats and their allies.

The provinces of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemburg are the most active in returning those refused political asylum. About 20 Kosovo Albanians were returned from Bavaria this week. The Bavarian interior minister, Guenther Beckstein, told reporters today: "there is no evidence of a general danger in Yugoslavia. The disturbances are concentrated only in the Drenica region of Kosovo. Not even in the capital Pristina has there been attacks by the Serb police."

Beckstein has come under fire since it was disclosed that two men deported from Germany are among those killed by the Serb police. One of them was 70-year-old Mohamed Islami, who was deported in December after his appeal for political asylum was refused. He survived his return to the village of Likoshan by only 74 days.

His 43-year-old son, Isuf Islami, and his wife and their five children, have been told to leave Bavaria by April 17 or they will be forcibly deported. Islami told journalists that the murder of his elderly father had terrified the family, particularly the children.

The federal interior ministry in Bonn says about 140,000 Kosovo Albanians live in Germany, with about 15,000 in Berlin. Almost all of them have applied for political asylum. According to federal interior minister Manfred Kanther between 500 and 2,000 more arrive every month. Kanther, who takes a hard-line on refugee policy, said last night deportations should continue despite the Serb crackdown and argued that there is "no danger" for most of them.

Those who want a temporary stop to the deportations argue that the Serb government does not honor the provisions of the 1996 agreement allowing the repatriation of those refused asylum. Article two of this agreement says that repatriation will take "with full respect for the human rights and the dignity" of the individual.

German church and human rights organizations say that in scores of cases, the returning asylum-seeker has been detained by Serb police, kept in jails and beaten. This was the fate of the 70-year-old man deported in December. Human rights organizations say he was interrogated for several hours, beaten and finally released with orders to report regularly to the police.

Even Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein acknowledged last week that the Serb authorities were consistently violating their own assurances about protecting returning asylum-seekers in the present circumstances.

One of these assurances is that returning asylum seekers will be flown to Belgrade and not confronted with the hostile situation in Pristina. But last week 77 deported Kosovo Albanians were flown by Yugoslav state airline JAT to Pristina despite an agreement that they would be taken to Belgrade.

Bavarian interior minister Beckstein has said he was "deceived" by the Belgrade authorities and asked Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel to protest when he travels to Belgrade on March 19.