The United Nations housed Roma families and other ethnic minorities in toxic camps in Kosovo and then failed to compensate them, according to a report by a UN human rights expert, released Wednesday.
Around 600 people were placed in camps for internally displaced persons between 1999 and 2013 on contaminated land. Approximately half were children under the age of 14, UN expert Baskut Tuncak said.
Since as early as the 1970s, the area was known to have lead contamination. Lead poisoning is believed to have contributed to the death of several children and adults, Tuncak found earlier in his investigation.
“The circumstances demand individual compensation and a public apology by the United Nations,” the UN expert said after a meeting with victims and UN officials in Kosovo.
“I am deeply disappointed by the inertia surrounding this case,” he added.
Reports of intoxications among residents of the camp were available as early as 1999, but nothing was done until 2006, the expert found. Meanwhile, the UN started taking measures to protects its own peacekeepers from 2000.
A United Nations told Euronews in a written statement: "The Secretary-General believes that it is our shared duty to support the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities affected by lead poisoning in Kosovo and ensure that they receive the assistance that they need.
"He reiterates his call for contributions to the trust fund to support these communities.
"The trust fund will support the implementation of projects addressing the most pressing needs of these vulnerable communities, including in the areas of health, economic development and infrastructure."