Until its 2018 closure, the Konik refugee camp in Montenegro was Europe’s longest operating refugee camp, home to 1,500 ethnic Roma who fled Kosovo during the 1999 war. The camp had been situated near a large garbage dump on the outskirts of Podgorica, where residents had been in a state of limbo for almost 20 ears, in increasingly deteriorating conditions. In 2012, a fire and subsequent flood made conditions even more appalling, leaving over 800 refugees homeless. The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance described conditions at the camp as being “inhumane and hazardous,” and recommended the swift closure of the camp.
Many residents lost their identity papers and under Montenegrin law, could not apply for permanent residency unless they returned to Kosovo to secure a new passport, a trip that would cost hundreds of Euro. With no way of legally working, this was out of the question for most families in the camp. For many children born there, the camp was their only point of reference for the world, a place they rarely strayed afar from except to collect scrap metal and sort through piles of rubbish.