A group of Kosovo Serbs who spontaneously returned to Lubozhdё/Ljubožda village (Istog/Istok municipality) in March 2017, after 18 years in displacement, successfully obtained their personal civil identity documents, thus overcoming an important obstacle to their access to return benefits and assistance.
Throughout the entire process, the OSCE Mission in Kosovo actively worked for a solution together with stakeholders. On 11 May 2017, the Head of the OSCE Mission, Ambassador Jan Braathu, visited several of the 13 returnee family representatives. Discussing their challenges, Ambassador Braathu reassured the returnees of the OSCE’s continued vigilance and assistance and offered support in seeking to resolve their most immediate concern of gaining access to personal identification documents.
At the time, a welcome Kosovo government decision made on 1 March 2017 set the right parameters to ease access to personal documents, but it was still awaiting enforcement and further clarification through an explanatory administrative instruction to be issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Seeking to spur on that process, the OSCE was very pleased to find a highly constructive team of ministerial experts, capably and professionally supported by a dedicated EULEX Chief Adviser, ready to provide for the needed clarity by drafting a comprehensive instruction that Minister Skender Hyseni signed into force as of 22 July 2017.
After the Ministry pro-actively and expeditiously addressed initial implementation challenges (noted by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo) by inviting all municipal registry coordinators to a meeting to clarify implementation issues, the administration became effectively operative as of 31 July.
On that basis, on 1 August most of the Kosovo Serb returnees in Lubozhdё/Ljubožda were finally able to access their civil identity documents that will support the sustainability of their return, allow them full access to their properties and initiate the reconstruction of their houses and livelihoods.
With appreciated support by the UNHCR Pejë/Peć field office and the Istog/Istok municipal offices for civil registry and communities and returns, the OSCE Mission was glad to be able yesterday to concretely live up to commitments made and allow the families in Lubozhdё/Ljubožda a fairer chance of full participation in the wider society.
Once again, the municipality of Istog/Istok has confirmed itself as a trailblazer in the area of advancing the sustainability of returns and the OSCE Mission is confident that the Ministry of Internal Affairs will now ascertain the replication of this laudable practice in municipalities Kosovo-wide, marking another significant step towards establishing a viable multi-ethnic society inclusive of all.