FM Alert, Vol. II, No. 7

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Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 20:13:32 -0800
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Subject: FM Alert, Vol. II, No. 7

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FM Alert, Vol. II, No. 7

FM Alert, Vol. II, No. 7
17 February 1998


Participants at the January 27 meeting of the CIS Research Center
on Forced Migration discussed plans to examine problems
connected with the registration of nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs), as well as help establish a network of lawyers to provide on
legal protections of refugees and displaced persons. The center,
which brings together migration experts from across the CIS, was
formally registered in November 1997. Also at the recent center
session, Professor Ludmila Arutiunian of Yerevan University presented
on Armenian migration and the difficulties experienced by
migration-related NGOs due to the lack of a political settlement
regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In addition, the chairman of
the Rostov regional movement of Chechen conflict victims, Vitaly
Katretski, held a debate with a Federal Migration Service representative
on delays in providing compensation to displaced persons. Forced
Migration Projects (FMP) representative Natalia Voronina and Russian
Red Cross legal advisor Alla Yastrebova outlined plans to convene a
series of four meetings to discuss the development of the NGO sector
in the former Soviet Union. It was the center's third meeting since its
formation last year. Among the organizations who have provided, or
are considering providing, assistance to the CIS Research Center are
the FMP, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation,
International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UNHCR.
(For additional information see FM Alert of 14 November)


Top-level diplomats and international organization officials, attending
a roundtable discussion convened by the Forced Migration Projects,
reached a general consensus that more should be done to promote
the integration of Russian-speaking non-citizens in the Baltic states
of Estonia and Latvia. Many of the participants in the roundtable,
held in New York on February 10, praised Estonia and Latvia for
taking steps to ease discontent among Russian speakers over
citizenship and naturalization procedures that were instituted after the
two Baltic states regained their independence in 1991. The laws
effectively disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Russian speaking
residents in Estonia and Latvia, and required them to go through a
naturalization process to become citizens. Many Russian speakers
consider the naturalization process to be burdensome, especially the
need to demonstrate the ability to speak, read and write in the local
languages. In recent months both Estonia and Latvia have taken
steps to ease naturalization requirements, as well as bolster
protections for non-citizens. Despite recent actions, the desire of many
Russian speakers to go through naturalization is lagging, especially in
Latvia. Some roundtable participants said new initiatives need to be
formulated, in order to increase the pace of integration. Among those
attending were Trivimi Velliste, Estonia's representative to the United
Nations; Janis Priedkalns, Latvia's top UN envoy; Oleg Sedelev, a
senior representative from Russia's UN mission; along with US and
other diplomats, and representatives of the United Nations, the OSCE
High Commissioner on National Minorities, the European Union and
the Open Society Institute.
(For background consult the Forced Migration Projects special report
"Estonia and Latvia: Citizenship, Language and Conflict Prevention."
Also, see FM Alert of December 29, 1997).


In a letter to the editor published January 20, Forced Migration
Projects Director Arthur C. Helton urged the Swiss government to
suspend forced repatriations of ethnic Albanians to Serb-controlled
Kosovo. The letter appeared in Switzerland's German-language
newspaper "Tages-Anzeiger," coming in response to a feature
article describing the escalating political situation in Kosovo.
Switzerland plans over the next four years to return up to 15,000
Kosovar asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected. Already,
several dozen Albanians have been forcibly returned to Kosovo, which
is part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Switzerland and
the FRY have concluded a readmission agreement enabling
Switzerland to return Yugoslav citizens. The social and political
tensions in Kosovo are rising. In one incident in January 1998 an ethnic
Albanian youth was shot at close range and killed by a Serb police
officer. The FMP are concerned that a large-scale influx of
disenfranchised ethnic Albanians from countries of refuge will seriously
undermine stabilization. A suspension of forced returns from Switzerland
would protect the human rights of asylum seekers and reduce the
chances of a conflagration in Kosovo, which could easily spread beyond
the region's borders.
(For additional information see FM Alert of January 16, 1998).

For more information contact:
Forced Migration Projects
Open Society Institute
400 West 59th Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10019
tel: (212) 548-0655
fax: (212) 548-4676

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