Arigona Back in Austria

News Brief: Dec., 2010/Jan., 2011

Arigona Zogaj (18) returned to Austria on Nov. 24 with her mother Nurije and her younger brother and sister Albin (11) and Albona (10), four months after the family had been deported to Kosovo. The return of the Zogajs marked the end of a three-year fight to stay in Austria, bringing them back to Frankenburg in Upper Austria where the mayor, a local priest and many neighbors had supported them. Arigona plans to train as a nurse; her mother has resumed her former job in a poultry factory and her siblings are back in school.

In September 2007, Arigona Zogaj, then a 15-year-old top student in a technical high school, went underground, in order to put pressure on the authorities to lift the deportation order that had been issued and would have forced her family to return to Kosovo. Subsequent to her reappearance, Arigona was allowed to stay with her mother. Her father decided to leave the family.

The unusual handling of the Arigona case stirred heated debate in Austria and Kosovo and criticism on both sides, from the left of the Interior Minister Maria Fekter for “inhumane” treatment of the family, and from the right, for indecisiveness and what was considered exceptional handling of the case. [See “Fischer’s Failure, Austria’s Shame” in TVR Jul./Aug. 2012] This resolution is expected to serve as a precedent for other well-integrated families and, secondarily, to lead other groups living in a shadow underground and threatened with deportation – particularly Kosovar Albanians and Roma – to emerge into the mainstream.

“They may have believed that they would increase their chances of returning to the west by not registering or not going to school,” Besnik Vasolli of the Kosovar Interior Ministry told Der Standard.

Since the end of war in 1999, tens of thousands Kosovars returned back to their homeland, especially after it declared its independence in 2008. In 2009, about 2,000 Kosovars from central Europe, especially from Germany, were deported.

For a further information, see “Immigration’s Uncivil Law” in TVR Nov. 2010, and the Mar. 2012 follow-up.

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