latest news (archive)

13 Sept:
1. The U.N. envoy will present Kosovo progress report in couple of weeks.  News reports say the U.N.'s special envoy to Kosovo, Kai Eide, has finished his tour of Kosovo.  Eide said this week that he will present his progress report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a couple of weeks on whether to start talks on the disputed province's future.  It is unknown whether the report and discussion will include the lead-poisoned IDP camps that the UN is running.
2. Relief Web report, "ERRC attacks lead poisoning in Kosovo Roma camps"
3. EU and OSCE to get involved? Due to the lack of action by UNMIK, organizations working on the lead poisoning issue are considering approaching the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to take action in the ongoing tragedy in the Kosovo camps.  The EU and OSCE may be ready to take on the issue, since on September 2nd the OSCE press monitor reported that the EU had warned Kosovo authorities on its performance, though the lead poisoning issue was not mentioned specifically.  Also, the OSCE is a sponsor of the RADC center (see links left and report summaries below) which is very active on the issue.  From the OSCE press monitor report: “The Great Britain Government, which leads the European Union, stated on Thursday that the block of 25 state members is very unhappy with the work that Kosovo Leadership has performed regarding minorities and called upon them to do more about them. Addressing a speech to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, GB Ambassador to the OSCE said the EU and international community would be mainly focused on reforms in the government, respectively decentralization when the status talks time comes.”
4. Summary of the Roma and Ashkali Documentation Center (RADC) report #5.  See this for full report.
-In the rubble clearing of the Roma mahalla, the second phase has been delayed.  
-The general spokesman for the camps doesn't believe in the lead poisoning in the camps.
-Dianne Post of the ERRC reports on the medical records of camp residents, showing the evidence of lead poisoning as the cause of the death of one child in the camps last year, and the documented lead poisoning of the child's sister, who was evacuated from the camps.  Post also reported on the complete lack of hygiene she found in the camps, specifically excrement-covered toilets with no washing facilities.
5. Summary of the (RADC) report #4.  See this for full report.
-Lead-poisoned Zitkovac Camp meeting on Sept. 2nd:  The residents feel they haven't been consulted.  They worry that getting transferred to new barracks will interfere with their eventual return to their real homes.  They wondered if their current camp could be cleaned instead.  They spoke of the humanitarian issue being politicized and want the camp residents via the FORUM (Roma and Ashkali Forum) to make the decisions that are then passed onto higher levels of government.
It was announced at this meeting that the woman who in childbirth along with the child on July 14th 2005 had died of a heart attack and diabetics.  (Get the Lead Out comment:  this does not seem to be an official announcement of the cause of death and its possible connection to the lead poisoning in the camps.)
-Lead-poisoned Leposavic camp meeting, Sept. 2nd:  The camp leader said that people feel manipulated and that getting relocated to another camp is absurd.  They want to go back to their houses instead.
-The RADC recommended that a health agency publish hard data on the comparative lead contamination, health conditions and mortality in the camps versus Mitrovice and general standards.  It recommended the camps be included in all relevant meetings and also that there be a compilation of what programs and investments are going on in the camps.  
-From UNMIK Office of Communities, Returns and Minority Affairs (OCRM), Regional Update mid-August: Rubble clearing for the new barracks is going on, and the inadequate water and sewage systems are being fixed up in the camps.  

31 Aug:
1. REVOKING OF UNMIK SENIOR OFFICIALS' IMMUNITY REQUESTED.  Recently making the front page of the major Kosovo newspaper is that the European Roma Rights Center has sent a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan saying it requires the cancellation of senior UNMIK officials' immunity because they are responsible for health and humanitarian catastrophe taking place in three camps in North Mitrovica north. "Today, many Roma in Mitrovica are exposed to permanent danger of poisoning with lead and this is the reason that we address you for help," reads the letter at the beginning. This organization blames the UNHCR for establishing camps in the areas that are affected by the high level of poisoning with lead.
2. In a bit of good news for the flow of info, the Roma and Ashkali Documentation Center (see links on left) will soon open a branch office in the north part of Mitrovica directly in one of the RAE camps.  Since they have recently begun weekly reports on the progress of getting the camps evacuated, this should mean even more detailed info for all parties involved.
3. In a summary of the latest RADC report, the relocation plan of Roma  people from the camps to the  temporary shelters is still on hold and being discussed.  In extensive meetings involving the relevant organizations and the families in the camps, it became apparent there are “communication crises” in the situation, with too much contradictory information being given to the people in the camps, fueling hostility and confusion. Concerning the eventual move, safety concerns and practical concerns were discussed with the family representatives from the camps. See this for full report.
4.Online Petition:  Please take a moment to sign the petition started by Ilanna Sharon Mandel at this.

17 Aug:  Refugees Int'l has been successfully putting the pressure on Washington, leading to the minority leader of the US Congress's Committee on International Relations to officially contact UNMIK head Soren Jessen-Petersen and US ambassador to the UN John Bolton concerning the lead poisoned UN camps.  RI is also in contact with the Center for Disease Control and other bodies about what has and will happen to the people suffering in the camps.

14 Aug:  Rubble clearing, mining permits, sports complexes and listserves.
1. Rubble is being cleared in the Roma area of Mitrovice, apparently in preparation for the building of housing.  Whether this housing will be for forced returnees from places like Germany or whether it might actually be part of a plan to evacute the people in the poisoned UN camps in not known at this time.
2. UNMIK has issued permits to reopen the Trepca lead mines that are polluting the UN camp sites.  As reported in an excerpt from local press by UNMIK Media Monitoring service of 6 July 2005, "There will be no more obstacles to starting the work at the Trepca mines. After more than six years of being blocked, Trepca and some other mines obtained licenses from the Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals (ICMM)."  This wording is strange since the fact that there are UN camps on the site would seem to be a major obstacle.  We will see whether the reported worth of the mines (6 billion Euro) is what finally determines the fate of the displaced people living in the UN camps there. ()
3. Whether or not the building being constructed next to the lead-poisoned Zitkovac camp is a "sport complex" (see Aug. 1st below) is still unknown at this time, but Dianne Post of the ERRC points out that this  construction is relevant because it lends credibility to the rumor that there is no poisoned ground (or why would they be building there), and also because it raises the question of how a municipality that has no money to get decent water or living conditions to the Roma can build a sports complex.
4. To be a part of the Get the Lead Out email discussion list, go to () and click "join this group".

8 Aug:  Two recent reports about Kosovo from Kofi Annan to the UN Security Council
do not even mention the polluted camps.  

1 Aug:  A building is being constructed next to the lead-poisoned Zitkovac camp.  At this time GtLO doesn't know the planned purpose for this building, but speculation runs from it being a sport complex to planned housing for Kosovo Roma being forced to return from Germany.  This construction is relevant because it lends credibility to the rumor that there is no poisoned ground (or why would they be building there), and also because it raises the question of how a municipality that has no money to get decent water or living conditions to the Roma but they can build a sports complex.

21 July:  The Helsinki Commission in Washington, DC, reports that it is working to pressure the US State Dept. and UNMIK on the issue of lead poisoning in Kosovo IDP camps. A representative of the commission recently visited Kosovo to research the situation.

20 July:  Amnesty International is reportedly giving the UN head of Kosovo and the regional authorities until the week of the July 25th to respond to their letter () urging immediate action to evacuate the toxic camps.  If there is no appropriate response, AI will reportedly start a larger campaign on the issue.

18 July:  
1. The US Center for Disease Control is said to be flying a team to the lead poisoned UN camps in Kosovo.  
2.  A mother and her newborn child from the lead-poisoned Zitkovac camp have died. Details about whether these deaths are related to the lead poisoning are to follow.
3.  The legal director of the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), Diane Post, has a face-to-face meeting with UN Kosovo head Soren Jensen Petersen on Tuesday, July 19th, 2005. Post will reportedly be discussing ERRC's efforts on behalf of getting the Roma transferred out of the camps immediately, and ERRC's readiness to sue the UN in court in the United States. This is one of the first times that an interested party has been able to meet with Petersen.