Baroness Kinnock Response on Toxic Waste Camps in Kosovo

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Roma Virtual Network

Apr 24, 2010, 5:41:18 AM4/24/10
to, Rachel Francis-Ingham
The UK Association of Gypsy would very much like to share our views on the plight of the Roma people on the Toxic Waste Camps and the new Roma Mahalla

In response to Baroness Kinnock’s letter (attached) to the UK Association of Gypsy Women, the Kosovo Emergency Medical Group told UKAGW that they are pleased that the UK Embassy in Pristina has been working hard to try and get matters moving, and the recent Fluvio lead testing programme at the camps and Roma Mahalla is a testament both to their efforts, and that of the scientists involved.

Two days ago, KMEG had a long conversation with the political attaché at the British Embassy in Pristina. During the conversation, it was confirmed that the construction of the first 50 dwellings would start next week and that hopefully, further constructions would begin in May. Although, Skender Syla, of the Head of World Health Authority (WHO) in Pristina, had said in front of several witnesses that facilities existed for the treatment of lead poisoning in Kosovo and that staff were trained.

KMEG said there are huge doubts about the truth of this for the following reasons.

Firstly, none of those who moved to Roma Mahalla in previous years with lead poisoning have ever received treatment. If staff is trained and facilities are in place, then why are they not already very busy at Roma Mahalla?

Secondly, consider the example of Ergin Salihi. Ergin is the only child in the camps to have been sent for treatment to a hospital in Pristina. He had been promised by Alush Gashi, the Kosovo Minister of Health in an email to a team member of KMEG that he would ensure that if it was impossible to provide treatment for Ergin in Pristina, then he would do all in his power to help him to receive treatment abroad. Because of this statement, KMEG ensured that young Ergin was taken as requested to Pristina hospital. Dr Skender Syla, the local WHO head was personally informed.

While Ergin was at the hospital, the doctors showed that they were clearly completely ignorant of the effects of lead poisoning on the brain and other organs of young children. The extent of Ergin's poisoning produces many of the physical and mental symptoms of acute poisoning, including aggression and irrational behavior, to say nothing of the effect on his damaged kidneys. He is like all children born in these camps, suffering from brain damage. Let us also not forget that Ergin is a young boy of only nine years old. He is very vulnerable and would require very careful attention by trained pediatricians, caring nurses and an expert and sensitive examination, by those who can speak his language.

On arriving at Pristina hospital, the doctors were at a total loss to know how to treat him. In fact, Ergin was so afraid that he made several attempts to escape, culminating when he actually tried to jump from a balcony of the hospital. He was quite simply, petrified. The doctors repeatedly asked for him to be removed from the hospital and taken home. Finally they persuaded his mother, an illiterate woman, to place her mark on his discharge papers.

The only treatment Ergin ever received as a result of his visit to Pristina hospital was that Kosovo Agency Advocacy Development (KAAD), the Kosovo government's NGO placed as administrators of the camps, started to pay for a daily special diet of fruit and vegetables for Ergin once he was back in Osterode. Last September, this was withdrawn on the grounds that they could no longer afford the 7€ per day. Since then, it is only due to the personal financial intervention of our own activists that his diet is continuing to this day. So much for assurances that the medical facilities in Kosovo can provide treatment for 600 lead poisoned children and adults from the camps.


KMEG and indeed UKAGW would like to challenge those who give such assurances and ask them. "If you can treat those who vacate the camps and move to Roma Mahalla, then why have you not done so for those who have already moved? If you think you can treat 200+ children under ten, then why can you not provide even fruit and vegetables for one child?

Attached are some pictures of Ergin: the first was when he was seen in the Belgrade Institute for Mother and Child in Belgrade by team members of KMEG last summer. The second was taken shortly after his return to the toxic camp at Osterode together with his brother who is also affected. The latest, taken only two weeks ago, shows Ergin's now marked skin discoloration and seriously bloated appearance. This is just one child who is suffering neglect as we write. There are over 200 in these appalling camps.


In view of what is obviously the continued abuse of these children, abandoned to a long term solution, rather than immediate evacuation to a safe place where they can receive proper and immediate treatment, KMEG find it no surprise that the UK's largest law firm dealing with human rights abuses, Leigh Day & Co. and other US lawyers, have decided to seek up to €30 million in compensation for all 600 victims.

KMEG said, clearly it is nonsense to claim that medical treatment for lead poisoning is available in Kosovo. If it were, then those who dwell in the Roma Mahalla with high lead levels would be receiving it. These are downright untruths about the availability of treatment negating the need for evacuation abroad, it must be shown to be purely political diversionary tactics on behalf of those countries who do not wish to take in Roma, when the truth is, that they want to send as many as possible back to Kosovo.

Please help UKAGW and KMEG to get Ergin’s diet restored which he also shares with his younger brother, by writing to your government and Baroness Kinnock protesting against KAAD’s withdrawal of Ergin’s life saving diet.


To email your protest to Baroness Kinnock:  


Rachel Francis

UK Association of Gypsy Women

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Ergin 15_04_10.JPG
Ergin and younger brother.JPG
Ergin Salihi Summer 2009.JPG
Baroness Kinnock Reply.pdf
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