News 23 Feb 15

Montenegro Urged to Close Rundown Refugee Camp

European rights officials are to urge Montenegro to shut the largest refugee camp in the country, where Roma displaced from Kosovo by the late 1990s war are still living in desperate conditions.

Dusica Tomovic
The Konik refugee camp in Podgorica.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, a Council of Europe human rights body, will publish a report this week recommending the closure of the Konik camp on the outskirts of Podgorica “as soon as possible”.

The report, which BIRN has seen ahead of its publication on Tuesday, will urge the Montenegrin authorities to find new accommodation for about 1,500 Roma refugees who live in the rundown camp.

The commission will say that it is alarmed at the appalling living conditions and deprivation suffered by the camp’s inhabitants, a great many of whom live in sub-standard accommodation.

The camp was set up on the site of a garbage dump, away from other residential areas.

Most of the housing consists of broken-down wooden barracks with corrugated iron or plastic roofing. Some of the barracks have no electricity, no cooking facilities, no running water, and no sanitation or other amenities of any kind.

In July last year, around 100 Roma families living in the camp were rehoused in containers until permanent homes can be found for them. Four months later, the government launched a rehousing project to built 50 apartments for Roma refugees.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance will praise the measures that the Montenegrin authorities have taken to ensure better living conditions, such as the rehousing in containers, but stress that this is only a temporary solution.

The commission will also express concern about the proposed government housing project which envisages the construction of apartments within the existing camp, because it is isolated from the majority population.

“That is why the residents of Konik camp will still be in the same situation and live as if they were in a ghetto because they do not have the opportunity to integrate with other communities,” the report will say.

The commission will also say that a devastating fire in the camp in July 2012, followed by floods in September of the same year, seriously worsened living conditions for the refugees from Kosovo, causing extensive damage and leaving more than 800 people homeless.

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