The senior United Nations envoy to Kosovo today hailed a ground-breaking ceremony marking the start of reconstruction at the Roma Mahala neighbourhood that will allow displaced people to return to their homes there.
The event is part of the Return to Roma Mahala Project which will involve building two apartment blocks each housing two dozen families and 57 houses in the first phase.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Søren Jessen-Petersen, called the initiative a lasting solution for the Roma to go back to their homes. “Today we are literally paving the way for the return in freedom, in safety and in dignity of many Roma who have been displaced for far too long,” he said.
Stressing that individuals must exercise their right to return, he voiced conviction that a decision on the status of Kosovo “will bring the clarity that every displaced person needs to have.”
In 1999, Roma Mahala was home to some 8,000 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, many of whom are living either as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, or abroad. The Return to Roma Mahala Project represents the largest urban return project in Kosovo.