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Romani Children in Kosovo being Poisoned by High Lead Levels

2 December 2005

European Roma Rights Centre Urges Immediate Action

The European Roma Rights Centre, an international public interest law organisation advocating for the human rights of the Romani population in Europe, this week sent letters asking the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, four Special Rapporteurs, and the Secretary General of the United Nations to take immediate action for the preservation of the lives and health of children in three Romani IDP camps in Kosovo.

Shocking new medical tests have revealed very high lead level readings in the Roma IDP camps of Kablare, Zitkovac and Chesmin Lug. On October 19, 2005, Society for Threatened Peoples of Goettingen, Germany, arranged for Dr. Klaus-Dietrich Runow to test for toxic heavy metals in the three IDP camps. Dr. Runow is a Doctor of Environmental Medicine specializing in detoxification of heavy metal contamination.

Hair samples were collected from 48 children between the ages of 1-15. The readings range from 20 µg/g (micrograms per gram) to 1200 µg/g with five children at this extreme range. Studies have shown a high correlation between lead in hair and the blood of children. In addition to high levels of toxic lead and other heavy metals, including antimony, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, vanadium and magnesium, Dr. Runow also found disturbingly low levels of selenium, a mineral essential for thyroid function and for binding and inactivating toxic heavy metals.

World Health Organization (WHO) tests in the Kosovo camps have, since 2000, consistently shown blood levels of 65 µg/dL (micrograms per deciliter). The Centers for Disease Control in the United States have a recommended treatment plan for different lead levels. For levels over 45 µg/dL, the victim must have therapy to reduce blood lead levels. Over 70 µg/dL, the person concerned must be hospitalized and removed permanently from the toxic environment. UNMIK's and WHO's own treatment protocol for Kosovo requires that if a reading is above 45 µg/dL, an individual is to be taken to Belgrade for treatment and if over 70 µg/dL, permanently removed from the camp. Failure to remove and treat these children violates many international conventions and local law.

Since UNMIK is the responsible agency and is an institution acting on behalf of the United Nations, the ERRC calls on the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to take immediate action in this medical emergency and asks the Secretary-General Kofi Annan to assist in rectifying this human rights tragedy, as well as commencing an internal investigation to ascertain how this dereliction of duty was allowed to continue for more than six years.

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ERRC submission to UN HRC on Hungary (February 2018)

14 February 2018

Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre concerning Hungary to the UN Human Rights Committee for consideration at its 122nd session (12 Narch - 6 April 2018).

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The Fragility of Professional Competence: A Preliminary Account of Child Protection Practice with Romani and Traveller Children in England

24 January 2018

Romani and Traveller children in England are much more likely to be taken into state care than the majority population, and the numbers are rising. Between 2009 and 2016 the number of Irish Travellers in care has risen by 400% and the number of Romani children has risen 933%. The increases are not consistent with national trends, and when compared to population data, suggest that Romani and Traveller children living in the UK could be 3 times more likely be taken into public care than any other child. 

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Families Divided: Romani and Egyptian Children in Albanian Institutions

21 November 2017

There’s a high percentage of Romani and Egyptian children in children’s homes in Albania – a disproportionate number. These children are often put into institutions because of poverty, and then find it impossible ever to return to their families. Because of centuries of discrimination Roma and Egyptians in Albania are less likely to live in adequate housing, less likely to be employed and more likely to feel the effects of extreme poverty.

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