Monday, July 5, 2010
ROMANI IN KOSOVO
The following is a letter from THE UNITED KINGDOM ASSOCIATION OF GYPSY WOMEN TO Foreign Secretary William Hague.
The situation of the Romani in Kosovo worsens everyday.
I think we should follow the lead of UKAGW and contact our representatives in the U.S. government and the UN to take a firm stand on Kosovo.
I am also gathering information about the U.S. Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.
UK Association of Gypsy Women
Foreign Secretary RT Hon William Hague
King Charles Street
05 July 2010
Dear Mr. Hague
Thank you for your response to our letter dated 16 June 2010 albeit, through your Kosovo assistant desk officer Lucy Glynn.
Please forgive me Minister; we were not looking for your sympathy but, rather more in the way of constructive support in lobbying Norway. We are well aware that the UK and Norway are –‘third
parties to the ‘Poison Camp Issue Kosovo’ and indeed you are quite right in as much as Norway have no legal or international obligation but, please indulge us while we evidence the reason for our contention that Norway should have more reason than most to want to right the wrong in regard to the Roma/Askhali people’s onthe toxic camps in Kosovo.
The Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) was funded 80% by the Norwegian Government and was also an implementing partner of Action by Churches Together (ACT) and UNHCR in the north Kosovo/Mitrovica camps from 1999 until the end of 2008.
Despite denying that NCA was ever involved until 2005 in the camps (when they were given a six figure euro contract by UNHCR to exclusivelyadminister the camps), the ACT newsletter of 10 October 1999 published:
The ACT/NCA group has, at the request of the people themselves, taken over administrative control of the temporary Roma camp in North Mitrovica. A contract has been let with a local contractor to construct the "permanent" camp closer to town. Site preparation is almost complete, with erection of the assigned 45 pre-fab houses (they were actually built out of old lead-painted boards) and accompanying kitchen/toilet central units to commence shortly.
In another ACT newsletter dated 17 October 1999, it was stated:
ACT/NCA's water sanitation group continues to operate the temporary camp for displaced Roma in north Mitrovica.
In October 2000 ACT published this short report:
ACT programs in Kosovo
By Rod Booth
…and the two Roma camps in North Mitrovica have been provided with water systems and a house-by-house educational visitation instituted in the entire operational area.
Perceived by many returning Albanian Kosovars as having sided with the Serbian Forces, most of Kosovo's 40,000 Roma felt compelled to flee when the Kosovars returned. Vengeful neighbors systematically burned
out the entire former Roma community of South Mitrovica during the last two weeks of June 1999. More than 400 of those thus displaced remainedhomeless in North Mitrovica. At the request of both the Roma and
UNHCR, ACT has become the lead agency in providing food, shelter and support for this vulnerable sector of Kosovo society.
At a time when many other NGOs are starting to move on, the six ACT implementing partners in the Kosovo arena remain determined to stay with the people of this devastated land, to assist them in their efforts to
rebuild a new society from out of the ashes of the old.
THE ACT INTERNATIONAL IMPLEMENTING PARTNERS IN KOSOVO:
Christian Aid, UK
Danish Church Aid (DCA), Denmark
Diakonie Emergency Aid, Germany
Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Geneva
Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC), Macedonia
Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), Norway
United Methodist Church Office for Relief (UMCOR), USA
In August 2000, random blood testing for lead poisoning for the entire Mitrovica region was requested by SPSG Dr. Bernard Kouchner. The only dangerous lead levels found were in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps built by ACT/NCA. Dr. Kouchner’s UN medical team recommended relocation of the Roma camps to a lower risk area. UNHCR and their implementing partners ACT/NCA did not respond.
After several Romani children died in 2004 and countless Roman women miscarried due to complications contributed by lead poisoning, the UN in Kosovo refused to acknowledge that a report had ever been written, recommending closure of the Roma camps and fencing off of the polluted area. However, Jackie Holmboe of Norwegian Church Aid confirmed in a UNMIK meeting on 25 November 2004, in Mitrovica, that NCA had a copy of the report in their files since 2000.
In 2006, two of the four NCA camps were closed due to the highest lead levels in medical literature and the Gypsies sent to another camp (formerly occupied by Fr ench troops who were told on leaving not to father a child for nine months due to the lead levels in their bodies) called Osterode, which was only 50 meters
from two of the existing Gypsy camps. NCA posted guards on duty 24 hours/day to prevent journalists such as ZDF German TV from entering.
Under NCA’s camp administration (from 1999 to 2008) more than 80 Roma died in these camps, mostly due to complications from lead poisoning. NCA did not keep a list of deaths; no names were written down and no help was provided for burial. No NCA staff ever attended the funerals. However, the camp leaders and another NGO KRRF did keep a list of everyone who died under NCA’s administration.
To refute charges that NCA knew about the dangerous levels of lead poisoning in their administered camps but never urged UN officials to evacuate the camps and medically treat those most in danger (children under the age of six and pregnant women), NCA’s Pristina office declared that from their research, “Roma
were more susceptible to lead poisoning than normal people and thus had to live with it.”
Indeed Minister, you are quite right in as much as Norway have no legal or international obligation but, from the evidence above it is crystal clear that they do have a Moral obligation, and it is this that we were appealing to you as UK Foreign Minister to call on Norway to acknowledge. In answer to your question had we approached the Norwegian Government, we have indeed to which, a letter of response was received informing us that our letter will be passed on?
The Governments of Europe ‘Third Parties or no, have a moral obligation to do everything in their power to end this human manmadetragedy that is Osterode and Cesmin Lug Toxic Waste Camps in Kosovo.
We were concerned for the lives of three children at the time of writing but, there is no denying there are hundreds of others in desperate need of emergency medical treatment residing on Osterode Camp and Cesmin Lug.
We would like to take the opportunity to challenge your response in part. The last tests conducted in the Mahalla were more than two years ago when 8 of those tested had BLL above 45ug/d1 and 3 had levels above 65ug/d1. Since then, there have been no follow up tests or medical treatment, and the second round of screening are not due to start until August. This is a clear indication not only that there has been demonstrated a dangerous lack of urgency but that medical treatment is still nowhere near being put into place.
We are calling for tests to be conducted now instead of waiting until August as treatment is absolutely urgent for children and pregnant women.
Mercy Corps have confirmed just this week that as far as the camps are concerned they are still in the process of training staff, and sourcing both equipment and medication. Furthermore, houses are not yet ready. While resettlement plans continue, we are calling for immediate evacuation to the largest US base in Kosovo. Camp Bondsteel is the best location for evacuation where troop levels are greatly reduced.
We believe Camp Bondsteel is fully equipped with excellent top class medical facilities. It is a safe environment, within Kosovo and we therefore feel this is the best solution that will save the lives of the children at greatest risk.
Regarding your reference to the comprehensive projects to make Roma Mahalla a safe environment in which to live, the Fluvio report, commissioned in part by the UK embassy in Pristina, made a number of recommendations and caveats. Among those were that the ground at Mahalla is unfit for the growth of vegetables for human consumption, an essential requirement for those struggling at subsistence levels. Furthermore, it identified a number of toxic source sites affecting both the camps and Roma Mahalla using
isotopic signatures. These need covering to prevent further ingress of wind-blown dust.
You must be aware that it is impossible to imagine how both these problems can be satisfied within the time frame necessary to prevent further loss of life of the Roma/Ashkali and Mahalla children.
The United Nations Definition of Genocide
Genocide attempts to destroy a group by killing its members, causing serious bodily harm, subjecting it to conditions that will cause its physical destruction, preventing births and forcibly transferring children.
What has been allowed to continue without challenge on Osterode and Cesmin Lug is without a shadow of a doubt Genocide in every sense of the word. We are assured of the support of the World Health Organisation in the evacuation of the people on the toxic waste camps to Camp Bondsteel. Moreover, the UK Association of Gypsy Women, Kosovo Medical Emergency Group cordially extend an invitation to the UKFCO to support the same as we feel, it would not only be commendable but prudent of the UKFCO to support such a humane evacuation.
Posted by Morgan at 11:18 AM