News 15 Jan 13

Montenegro’s Kosovo Refugees Protest for Electricity

Refugees from Kosovo living in containers at a camp in Montenegro's capital staged a demonstration to demand power supplies.

Milena Milosevic

"This is not life - without electricity, it’s like we are in prison," one of the refugees told journalists in front of the headquarters of the EU delegation in Montenegro's capital Podgorica on Monday.

Several dozen Roma refugees from the Konik camp, located on the outskirts of the capital, gathered to demand power for the containers where they have been temporarily housed since the camp was devastated by a fire in July 2012.

They chose the EU delegation as the venue for their protest because the settling the status of Montenegro's refugees is one of the main conditions the country has to meet before joining the EU.

In November, 800 people were rehoused in more than 200 containers.

Although the government said that the containers would soon be provided with electricity, the residents of the camp have been spending the winter without power.

The government’s bureau responsible for refugees said on Monday that once the necessary procedures are met, the containers will soon get electricity.

But it was made clear that the refugees will have to pay for it.

“The state certainly won’t pay [the bills] for them,” said the bureau’s director, Zeljko Sofranac.

Montenegro is home to around 3,000 Roma refugees from Kosovo, half of whom live in the Konik camp.

They are classified as ‘internally displaced persons’ but hope to win the status of foreigners with permanent residence in Montenegro, which would give them access to more rights.

The 200 containers are seen as a medium-term solution for the refugees, who lost their belongings in July’s fire.

In March 2012, Montenegrin and EU officials signed an agreement allocating three million euro to the labour ministry for the construction of 90 apartments and a community centre for the Konik camp’s residents.

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