Tuesday 9.30pm SBS ONE
Wednesday 2.00pm SBS ONE (repeat)

UN's Toxic Shame

Gypsies have been violently persecuted across Europe throughout history but now gypsies - also known as Roma - living in UN refugee camps in Kosovo are being persecuted by neglect.

This week, Dateline examines the plight of the refugees in Mitrovica, where many children are sick and have dangerously high lead levels in their bloodstreams.

The high lead levels are not surprising because the UN chose to house the 150 families, who had just escaped ethnic cleansing during the Kosovo war, next to Europe’s largest lead mine nine years ago.

The Jahirovic family survived the ethnic cleansing but their children might not survive the lead contamination of the UN’s refugee camp in Mitrovica.

There's no safe level for lead in the human body. Brain damage is thought to start at around 10 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood. Their children have four to five times that amount.

The United Nations Health Officer in Mitrovica took the first blood tests back in 2000 - and his report recommended moving them. The World Health Organisation took more blood tests and called for the UN to immediately evacuate the camps in 2004. Two of the camps were moved to a former French NATO base that had been abandoned because of high levels of lead poisoning on the site… but the rest of the refugees remain.


Many of you have contacted us asking what you can do to help the Roma families in lead-contaminated camps. Paul Polansky, who featured in our story, is the regional Head of Mission for the international NGO "Society for Threatened Peoples (STC)", and he's provided us with the following details:

You can send an e-mail to roma@gfbv.ch to request further information or you can transfer your donation directly to this bank account:

Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker
BEKB Bundesplatz 8 CH-3001, Bern, Switzerland
Account No: 16 264.732.5.52
IBAN: CH7700790016264732552

Please add the keyword "Roma".

You can find more information on the campaign to evacuate the Roma at www.toxicwastekills.com

On air: 26th April 2009


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