Refugees returned 'too soon'

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
KOSOVAN children airlifted to Britain are being sent back home in breach of United Nations guidelines, refugee agencies claim.

More than 4,000 Kosovan families and children have been told that they must leave Britain by the end of June when their temporary visas expire.

UN High Commission for Refugees guidelines state that refugees receiving medical treatment, those traumatised or children from single-parent families should be given special consideration. However, of 4,326 Kosovans allowed into Britain because they were deemed to be the most vulnerable and ill in the refugee camps, only 25 have been granted permission on medical grounds to stay.

Afurther 340 have applied for asylum but are likely to be turned down.

Staff at Primrose hill high school in Leeds, which took 30 children during the crisis, have been campaigning to allow them to stay an extra year. Rachel Legg, school refugee co-ordinator, said: "No one is saying they should stay forever. They want to go back but it's too soon."

Merita Berisha, 14, is convinced she will be killed on her return. "There are many mines and children are dying."

A spokesman for the Home Office said the Government was under no obligation to adhere to the UNHCR guidelines, and added: "No one can say we haven't been generous to the Kosovans."

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