Last family leaves camp for displaced in Kosovo

News Stories, 9 November 2007

© UNHCR/S.Halili
Ilja Gashi, a Kosovo Roma IDP, preparing belongings to leave the camp in Plemetina. This marks closure of the Plemetina Temporary Collective Centre that sheltered IDPs since 1999.

PRISTINA, Kosovo, November 8 (UNHCR) Workmen are levelling a collective shelter for displaced people near the Kosovo capital of Pristina after the last family was moved to a new home of their own in the same village.

The temporary collective centre in Plemetina was opened in 1999 to provide emergency accommodation to some 1,300 displaced people belonging to Kosovo's minorities. Its doors closed last week, when a happy Demir Gashi and his Roma family of five left with their belongings.

UNHCR transported them a few hundred metres down the road to their new apartment in Plemetina, which was built by Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning. Demir said he was delighted to leave the harsh living conditions in the collective centre and move into a home of his own.

The government was able to close the collective centre after assisting the centre's IDPs to either return to their homes, move into new homes or find places in social housing buildings with the help of the UN refugee agency. Giuseppe Lococo, head of UNHCR's Pristina office, thanked all those involved in finding durable solutions, including donors.

The Kosovo authorities-assisted by UNHCR and others had worked to find housing solutions for the remaining residents of Plemetina Camp. Two social housing projects were completed in Plemetina and one in Magura, while the government built nine houses in Plemetina on land bought by IDP beneficiaries.

UNHCR had helped the residents of Plemetina's collective centre by providing legal counselling, carrying out individual case assessments and helping organize distributions of food and non-food items. It has also helped those moving out of the centre and into new homes.

Following a crackdown by the Serbian authorities in 1999, more than 900,000 ethnic Albanians were forced to flee Kosovo, only to return a few months later in the wake of a major military intervention by NATO. The exodus of some 200,000 minority Serbs, Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians and other minorities from Kosovo began within days and continued over the next few months.

Although more than 17,000 minority displaced people have returned to their homes, there are still more than 21,000 internally displaced persons in Kosovo in need of durable solutions.

By Shpend Halili in Pristina, Kosovo