Around the Balkans in 20 Days (Part 4/5)

Uploaded by vice on Aug 29, 2012


PAUL POLANSKY: No country wants them.
They're the people that nobody wants.
And of course, the Albanians fought tooth and nail not to
let them come back to their original neighborhood.
They didn't want Gypsies back in their community.
And this is the bottom line in Kosovo.

THOMAS MORTON: We are on our way to a refugee camp set up
by the UN in 1999 for the Gypsy community here.
And we've heard terrible things about the conditions of
the camp and health of the people who are there.
S we're just going to go and check it out.

In simplest terms, the conflict in Kosovo is between
the Serbian north and the Albanian south.
But it's not that simple.
It's not simple at all.
There's Serbian enclaves in the south, Albanian pockets in
the north, something called Illyrians kind of in the
middle, and like the rest of Europe, Gypsies pretty much
The Gypsies, or Roma, are a nomadic people who have been
roaming around Europe since the Roman times.
They're in every major country in Europe and are heavily
discriminated against everywhere they live.
Western Europeans, even supposedly tolerant Dutch
types, accuse Gypsies of being thieving, lying, welfare
cheats, and generally a lot less charming than their
depiction in children's cartoons or that Cher song.
But while in most of Europe, Gypsy mistreatment starts and
ends with making fun of them and not hiring them for jobs,
in Kosovo, their treatment is a million times harsher.
To help solve the problem of the Gypsy refugees, the UN
invited Paul Polansky, an American Gypsy expert, to come
to Kosovo and help them set up camps.
PAUL POLANSKY: The EC Commissioner for Human Rights
issued a written report saying that this was the worst human
rights violation in Europe in the past decade.

THOMAS MORTON: During the 1999 war in Kosovo, as Albanian and
Serbian forces wailed on each other, NATO began a bombing
campaign in support of the Albanians, displacing hundreds
of thousands of people, including most of
the region's Gypsies.
PAUL POLANSKY: Well, I came to Kosovo in 1999--
as almost every Western journalist--
We'd read in the "New York Times" and heard in the media
that the Albanians were being ethnically
cleansed by the Serbs.
And that's true.
But there was another side of the coin.
And I put it down to the abused becoming the abuser.
The Albanians had suffered under the Serbs for many
generations, and now they have become the abusers.
The UN opened a few IDP camps--
internally displaced people camps-- and so they needed an
expert to advise them.
And that's what they brought me to Kosovo to do.


THOMAS MORTON: It's obviously depressing in here.
And it's like an atrocity for people in modern Europe or
anywhere to live like this.
But everybody's super house-proud.
They've taken care of this place.
It doesn't smell.
It's clean--
as much as it can be.
Everybody's house is nice.
Everybody's house is decorated great.

Even the graffiti's pretty well-done.


THOMAS MORTON: On top of everything-- the cramped
conditions, the hole in the roof, never mind the fact that
if any of the residents step outside the
camp, they risk a beatdown--
every single child inside the camp
has severe lead poisoning.
PAUL POLANSKY: There were about 1,800 tents built on the
tailing stands of the mines.
And the pollution from the smelter drifted right over
their camp.
Their blood samples were sent to a lab in Belgium.
And Belgium said, please retake the test.
There's no such levels in medical literature.
And so the tests are retaken and found that these children
had the highest lead levels in medical literature.
And so, the UN medical team said, Doctor Kouchner, you
must evacuate these camps.
Well, he didn't.
And so that's where I broke my relationship with the UN.
We still have 40 families in a toxic wasteland.
And the other 100 were only moved off in January and
December of this past year.
In 11 years, more than 100 Roma, mainly children, died in
these camps on this toxic wasteland.

THOMAS MORTON: Gusani's camp is actually the second one the
UN set up in the area.
The original camp, the one built over an industrial waste
site which caused all the lead poisoning, is
actually still open.
Conditions there are obviously worse than what we saw in
Leposavic, and the effects of the lead poisoning are even
more drastic.






THOMAS MORTON: Are these from--
IVA PROLIC: It's her lead poisoning results.

PAUL POLANSKY: Every single kid that has been moved off
this toxic wasteland has a lead level between 15
micrograms per deciliter and 45 micrograms per deciliter.
Brain damage starts at 10 micrograms per deciliter.
Every kid is born with irreversible brain damage.
And yet, they're telling us there's no medical treatment.
IVA PROLIC: Under is the therapy that she's been into.
THOMAS MORTON: When they stopped giving treatment, did
they say why?

THOMAS MORTON: Have any local or international organizations
offered you medical help?

PAUL POLANSKY: You have to wonder why they put the Gypsy
camp in a place that was first, highly polluted,
second, surrounded by Albanian villages.
Then they withdrew security.
So you have to wonder, did they want us wiped out so they
wouldn't have to handle a Gypsy problem in the future?
THOMAS MORTON: As of making this, it's been 12 years since
the end of the war in Kosovo.
Both temporary refugee camps are still packed.
And what talk there was about helping families move back
home has trickled to a whisper.
The whole deal underscores the fact that, for all its
rhetoric, the UN's not primarily a humanitarian
organization, but a political one.
All this raises the question of whether they're
intervention in these cases actually does more good than
it does harm.
PAUL POLANSKY: We didn't have AIDS in Kosovo until UN police
brought it from Africa.
PAUL POLANSKY: We didn't have brothels and houses of
prostitution until UN police made loans and investments in
Kosovo to start the drug trade and the prostitution trade.
They're not answerable to anybody, and that's how these
kind of things can happen.
They have diplomatic immunity.
So this is our new crusade, is to try and do draw awareness
that they're refusing to medically treat these kids.

Now, if it was their kids, they would
find a medical treatment.


Keeping up.
This is kind of like the scene in "The Goonies" where Troy
grabs Brent's hand.
But I think the roles are a little reversed.