Kosovo Institutions Threatened Monks and Nuns from the Serbian Orthodox Church with Deportation
November 9, 2018 – After an attempt to renew residence permit, one of the monks of the Raška-Prizren Diocese faced a threat that, within few days, he could be deported outside of Kosovo and Metohija (KiM). The problem of documents, that majority of Kosovo Serbs have, has proven to be one of the most serious problems the Serbs have been facing in this area, reports the Serbian Orthodox Raška-Prizren Diocese.
According to the news published on the web-site of the Serbian Orthodox Raška-Prizren Diocese, M.Š. has been a monk for years in one of the monasteries of the Diocese of Raška-Prizren. On 8 November 2018 he tried to renew the residence permit in KiM after being told he was granted a residence permit (third time in a row) and following the invitation of the Ministry of Interior of Kosovo (MoIA) to take a photo at the police in Priština.
According to the previous agreement, he was expecting to have a temporary Kosovo ID card issued for the period of 5 years (regular ones are valid for 10 years). However, when he arrived, after waiting for couple of hours, two policemen showed up and took him to the car behind the police building. There he was told that his request had been rejected a month ago although he had received a written confirmation that he would be granted a Kosovo I.D. He was told that the deadline for appeal had expired, and he could be immediately deported, according to the law.
After M.Š. tried to calmly explain that he had not received any notice of refusal, but that he was even promised he would receive an ID card, he asked for a reason for refusal. The policemen told him that this was because he had travel documents of Coordination Administration (i.e., documents the Republic Serbia issues for Serbs living in KiM), and that, in the meantime, Kosovo MoIA stipulated that such documents could not be used in applications for an extension of residence.
Finally, he was told to come the next morning, to see the head of the Migration and Foreigners Office at the MoIA. On 9 November 2018 in the morning, the monk arrived, expecting the disagreement to be resolved, but this time he had also received a written confirmation (a decision) that his request had been rejected, and was given a new 8-day deadline to appeal, with a promise that he would not be deported out of Kosovo until the appeal is decided.
Raška-Prizren Diocese immediately notified about the case, and through their lawyers the Diocese has been in touch with the OSCE mission that had been mediating in this issue.
Raška-Prizren Diocese expressed its worry that the monk was told in the police to also notify other clerics who have documents of the Coordination Administration for KiM that they would be deported out Kosovo if they did not obtain regular documents of the Republic of Serbia, which again, Serbian MoIA does not issue to citizens in KiM, unless they have a place of residence outside of KiM. Most Kosovo Serbs possess only these documents and passports of Coordination Administration (which are not part of the visa-free Schengen regime as regular documents of the Republic of Serbia). Citizens regularly face problems obtaining visas because foreign embassies in Pristina request Kosovo passports, and when they appear at foreign embassies in Belgrade, they are told they are not authorized to issue visas to citizens of Kosovo. Each year the monk extended his stay for one more year during the last three years, but this year he faced the sudden change of the rules. This is already seventh procedural change which Kosovo institutions introduced since they promised that, at least for the ecclesiastical persons (in accordance with Ahtisaari’s Annex 5), they would, within urgency proceedings, provide residence permits for monks and nuns who were living in the monasteries of Kosovo and Metohija.
Raška-Prizren Diocese believes that attitude of Kosovo institutions towards Serbs who are living in KiM for many years is “ultimately discriminatory and directly encourages emigration of our population”, and that this issue should be urgently included in the agenda of the UN Security Council sessions in New York, and for this problem to be included in the report of the UN SRSG for KiM.
“According to the latest information which the Diocese obtained from the international sources in Priština and the checkup of the Law on Foreigners (L04/L-219) which was quoted in the refusal letter to M.Š. it is possible that this is a case of technical and not substantial changes to the Law implementation. In other words as M.Š. has already applied for the residence permit prolongation and received it, it appears that the way of the implementation of the law has been changed and not the law itself as the Law on Foreigners specifically requests only “a valid travel document”.
However, there are also specific provisions related to the clergy and monastics of the Serbian Orthodox Church in accordance to the Ahtisaari Plan (Annex V) articles 8.2 and 7A Article of the Law on religious freedom stating:
Article 7A (3):
‘There will be no arbitrary prohibition of entry in Kosovo, or residence within Kosovo for priests, candidates for priesthood, monks, nuns and visitors’.
“Unobstructed access by pilgrims, guests and persons who live permanently or temporarily in religious institutions or premises should be guaranteed. This obligation shall be taken into account for the application of the relevant provisions concerning residence and travel”
At the end it appears that this issue has not been clearly defined as the latest draft Law on religious freedom in Kosovo is still stuck in the Parliament (for almost 2 years) and the Kosovo institutions show an increasingly lesser consideration of the Ahtisaari plan and its provisions, which leaves space for arbitrary decisions and interpretations of discriminatory nature as this is the case. Regrettably, this and some other key issues related to the future of our people in KiM have never been discussed in the course of the Brussels Dialog (according to our knowledge) nor do we have any information that this issue is due to be discussed. This creates a grave concern, not only of our clergy and monastics, but also our people who possess only the travel documents issued by the Coordination Administration of Serbia for Kosovo-Metohija.”
Source: web-site of the Raška-Prizren Diocese