UN disturbed by the situation of Roma living in a polluted environment in Kosovo
Walter Kaelin, Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, is quite outraged by the situation of several hundred displaced Roma who have been living for a decade on a contaminated site in Kosovo. In 1999, the UN relocated around 670 Roma to camps in Northern Kosovo very close to a former lead mine where the environment is strongly contaminated with the metal. The Roma were displaced to the site after the bombing of the former Yugoslavia by NATO units; it was considered a temporary measure at the time.
"These people are living in immediate proximity to toxic waste which has been poisoning their blood with lead for 10 years now. The children are especially in critical condition and require immediate treatment,” Kaelin said after returning from a visit to Kosovo and Serbia that lasted from 28 June – 4 July.
Kaelin has demanded that authorities and politicians cooperate in the spirit of pragmatism to find a permanent solution immediately. “From a humanitarian standpoint it is urgent and it is a very serious human rights problem. We cannot be allowed to play with the lives and health of these sick children for political reasons,” AFP quotes him as saying.
Kaelin expressed regret that “people expelled from Kosovo or displaced inside the former Serbian province continue to encounter serious obstacles when they want to return to their homes or be included into society in the places they now live.” He said discrimination and deeply irrational behavior towards these people are the main obstacles, as are poor access to employment or housing, a lack of schools for minorities, and problems with property restitution or rebuilding homes.
"Almost 800 refugee families expressed interest this year in returning to their homes in Kosovo,” Kaelin said. He said the authorities’ real will to facilitate refugee returns would now be shown.