Konik and Vrela Ribnička

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Konik is a residential neighbourhood, almost entirely lowrise, in Podgorica's eastern part. Its most distinctive feature is that it is home to Podgorica's Roma minority, and has an image of underdeveloped part of town. However, construction boom in late 2000s (decade) has benefited Konik, as its proximity to city center has made it attractive for development. Konik is home to only Catholic church in Podgorica. For 13 years the Roma living in the camp at Konik have been displaced. They fled the civil war in Kosovo and are still without a permanent solution or a clear legal status. Upon their arrival in Montenegro during the Kosovo conflict (1999–2000), Roma from Kosovo were granted the status of “displaced persons” since both Kosovo and Montenegro were part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at that time. Despite the subsequent independence of Montenegro in 2006 and of Kosovo in March 2008, Roma from Kosovo still hold the status of displaced persons, depriving them of their basic rights, such as the right to work.There are many critical obstacles for Roma in Montenegro: there are no provisions for Roma from Kosovo to effectively access public education; the housing situation continues to get worse with people living in tents, containers, and barracks without basic housing infrastructure; there is basic access to healthcare but little else. Roma from Kosovo are not entitled to register with the local employment agency as jobseekers and so are not entitled to use its services. Practically, Roma from Kosovo have no rights in Montenegro to formal employment, forcing them to accept unregistered jobs.In Konik, all of these issues are at their most acute.There are three options for the people of Konik. One, full local integration, or in other words, enjoyment of the same rights and freedoms under international and domestic law as others; two, voluntary and sustainable return to Kosovo, where competent authorities, both Kosovar and Montenegrin, must have the primary duty and responsibility to establish conditions, as well as provide the means, which will allow Roma from Kosovo to return voluntarily, in safety and with dignity, to their homes; or three, moving to third countries.Konik Floods:In September 2012 heavy rains and storms affected the refugee camp Konik I in Montenegro, near the city of Podgorica. Five tents collapsed completely and all the others were flooded, thereby damaging the personal belongings of the residents. As a result of the flooding, the living conditions in the camp worsened as the previously distributed blankets, mattresses, kitchen utensils, clothes etc. were destroyed by water or were washed away, leaving the population of the camp even worse off than after the fire that happened in July 2012. Then the whole settlement of Camp Konik One was destroyed, with prefabricated houses – 38 of them – burning down. The fire destroyed the Red Cross office and the warehouse that were within the camp, the youth club, the community centre with two premises for kindergarten, the field office of Legal Advisory Centre as well as the Roma NGO office.


Vrela Ribnička is a neighbourhood in Podgorica that borders the neighbourhoods of Kakaricka Gora, Masline, Ribnica and Stari Aerodrom. Vrela Ribnička is a subdivision of the larger Konik neighborhood. It is mostly a lowrise residential area, with very poor infrastructure. Most of the neighborhood has an appearance of a slum town. On its southeastern tip, it has a real refugee camp (which is more like a shanty town than a camp), a garbage dump and many garbage processing facilities. Vrela Ribnička contains one of the most notable auto-mechanics in Montenegro, Fratini, which is owned and operated by Naser Toskić.[citation needed]

Since the domestic population consists heavily of Roma, Vrela Ribnička is considered the largest ghetto in Podgorica.[1]


Geography[edit]

Vrela Ribnička is bordered to the north and east by the Ribnica. To the south, it is bordered by the village of Omerbožovići, and to the west by Ćemovsko Polje (Ćemo's Field).

Major streets in Vrela Ribnička include Spanish Warriors Street (Ulica Španskih boraca) and Hegumen Street (Ulica Igumanska).

History[edit]

Refugee camp[edit]

The Vrela Ribnička refugee camp is one of the five refugee settlements in Montenegro. Built in 1994, the camp houses many refugees of Bosnian origin displaced during the Yugoslav Wars. Financial support came from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The settlement consists of eight one-story residential buildings, containing 200 housing units altogether. A housing unit consists of one room occupied by one family and a common bathroom and toilet shared with adjoining neighbours. Intended for temporary accommodation, the quality of construction was initially low. As of March 1999, 196 refugee families live in the settlement, with a total of about 850 household members, most of whom were either born in Montenegro or had family in either Podgorica and/or Montenegro.[1]

Roma[edit]

Adjoining the settlement is a "tent camp" known as "Konik I," established in 1998 for displaced Kosovar Roma. In October 1998, the Podgorica Red Cross registered nearly 2,000 Roma in the tent camp. Construction on these facilities were so poorly completed that barely anything functioned properly, with repairs nearly impossible. Many of these Kosovar Roma had lived in similar conditions as they did in Kosovo.[1]

On 5 December 1999, the tent camp was badly damaged as a result of a storm, resulting in the loss of 170 tents, and homelessness of about 600 people. By April 2000, a new refugee camp, known as Konik II, was built with better infrastructure. By then, only 56 barracks had been built to accommodate 56 families, but only 14 were occupied.[2]

2000s construction boom[edit]

Vrela Ribnička, however, is now a site of Podgorica's many construction booms. One of the largest projects in Vrela Ribnička in 2007 was the reconstruction of the Spanish Warriors Street (Ulica Španskih boraca), which saw a new sidewalk put in place in both directions and new asphalt put in place. The project occurred between June and September 2007. This project, however, was scheduled to have been completed by 20 August 2007, but by that date, only three-quarters of the project had been completed. In addition to a street expansion, the bridge at its northern end crossing the Ribnica was rebuilt, and modernized. Negative impacts on the local population occurred as a result of the street expansion, however. It caused a drop in profits on businesses located on the street, as well as an increase in traffic on the much smaller Hegumen Street (Ulica Igumanska).

Another planned project is the construction of several apartment buildings for the Roma refugees. However, this project has been facing heavy criticism of the locals, as this might lower their property value and lower their neighbourhood's reputation, even though it already has a bad reputation for being home to Podgorica's Roma minority, as well as for raising one of the most dangerous children in Podgorica.[citation needed]

Education[edit]

Božidar Vuković Podgoričanin Elementary School (Osnovna škola „Božidar Vuković Podgoričanin“) is a primary school located in Vrela Ribnička. In 2006, the school was expanded to accommodate enrollment of children additional children between the ages of 5 and 7.

Demographics[edit]

According to the 1991 census, Vrela Ribnička had 7,854 residents.[1]

Ethnicity Number Percentage
Montenegrins 2,565 32.66%
Muslims 2,561 32.61%
Roma 1,334 16.98%
Serbs 438 5.58%
Albanians 363 4.62%
Yugoslavs 332 4.23%
Others 261 3.32%
Total 7,854 100%

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Božidar Jakšić (March 1999). "The Life of Refugees in Vrela Ribnička". Podgorica, Belgrade. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  2. ^ Božidar Jakšić (2002). Ljudi bez krova - Roofless People. Belgrade. ISBN 86-902915-1-2. Retrieved 26 September 2010.