Kosovo’s Lead Camps to be Closed
The European Commission and Kosovo’s government have launched a €5 million project to close the lead-contaminated Cesmin Lug and Osterode refugee camps for Roma ‘as soon as possible’.
The camps were set up by UNHCR in 1999 as a temporary measure when the Roma Mahalla, on the southern shore of the Ibar River, was burnt down by ethnic Albanians at the end of the conflict in Kosovo.
Despite repeated calls to close the camps and numerous investigations into the toxic, lead-contaminated environment, around 600 Roma still live there.
At the launch of the project on Tuesday, Kjartan Björnsson, Chargé d'Affaires at the European Commission Liaison Office in Kosovo, said: “This project was designed to address the alarming and somewhat appalling conditions under which you have lived for the past decade.
“The European Commission worked very closely with the Government of Kosovo, USAID, and other stakeholders during several months to establish a viable framework for solving this long lasting problem.
“Today's launching represents the firm commitment and dedication of the EU to address the need for your durable resettlement and reintegration.”
Sasa Rasic, Kosovo minister for communities and returns, said: “Closure of all camps is a priority for the Ministry and the entire Kosovo government.
“Our aim is to return people to their homes regardless of their ethnic background. This particular project is important not only as part of the wider return process, but also out of humanitarian and health reasons which will end the ten year long degradation of the health of hundreds of people, citizens of Kosovo.”
The 30-month project will be implemented by Mercy Corps and Kosovo Agency for Assistance and Development (KAAD).
The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, earlier this month called for the camps to be closed and forced returns to Kosovo to be stopped.
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