October 17th, 2007 12:27 EST
Kosovo: Roma families return to former neighbourhood
More than 100 displaced Roma have returned to live in their former neighbourhood in a northern Kosovo town under a project partly organized by the United Nations peacekeeping mission to the Serbian province (UNMIK) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Some 24 Roma families returned to apartments or houses near their original place of residence in Mitrovica yesterday to mark the end of the first phase of the “Return to the Roma Mahala” scheme, according to a press release issued by UNMIK.
The 107 returnees either came from camps in the northern part of Mitrovica or from neighbouring Montenegro or Serbia proper, and they follow the return of 462 Roma in March this year to new apartments or private houses.
The Roma Mahala is the name of the neighbourhood in Mitrovica that was home to an estimated 8,000 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians before it was destroyed during the conflict between Kosovo’s majority Albanian population and forces from the then Yugoslavia in 1999.
This project aims to ensure that the Roma return with dignity and their families can socially reintegrate into the fabric of Mitrovica life, by participating in the reconstruction of their homes, becoming involved in income-generating activities and developing contacts with the Kosovo Albanian community.
Aside from UNMIK and UNHCR, the project is also being undertaken by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the municipality of Mitrovica and other organizations, including the Danish Refugee Council and Norwegian Church Aid.
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