For the last years I saw many ghettoes all around Europe. I’ve seen too many children that will be part of lost generations, far too much abject poverty and drug abuse. Too many people living of garbage and on garbage, too many that went through a disastrous cycle that starts with begging goes through garbage recycling, prostitution, small criminality, garbage recycling again and ends-up as it started begging.
I am writing a report on ghettoes – a blunt one with no ambiguities. We need national and European policies dealing with ghettoes that are based on reality and not “positive practices” blabla.
I do believe ghettoes in Europe (including Eastern Europe and the Balkans) have an explosive potential of inter-ethnic conflict and that they are incubators of extreme poverty and criminality.
But I never thought I will see a ghetto that is literally explosive.
Kakanj is 45 minutes drive from Sarajevo. The landscape is spectacular – an amazingly beautiful country.
The entry in the ghetto is same like any of the many urban ghettoes I saw. The road linking the ghetto to the main street is full of holes and then becomes a dirt road.
The garbage piles are first thing to see as we enter the ghetto – most of the adults make a living selling recycled plastic, glass, paper or metal. Most of the houses are much better than houses I saw in other places – people invest most of what they make in their houses – the winters are tough in the mountains.
Over 600 people live in the ghetto here – the majority of them are children. The ground started sliding a few weeks ago. Mining was a main part of the industry in Kakanj and the ghetto is built on unsafe ground. 25 houses are too damaged to live in – big cracks are all over the walls.
But the danger lies in the cracks in the ground more than those in the walls.
The smell of methane gas is intoxicating. My eyes hurt and I have a terrible taste in my mouth. This is clearly a very toxic environment where hundreds of children and adults have to live. Somebody shows me that the gas is flammable.
There is no reaction from the local administration. The mayor said he has no solution but did not come to see yet what was going on. No investigation team was sent to check the toxicity and health risks of the gas that leaks out of the ground despite repeated calls towards the local administration. There is a significant risk of a tragedy involving the death of many (mainly children) in this place and there is no reaction whatsoever of the local administration.
Why is this happening ? Because most of the people in the ghetto are Roma. Because abject racism and discrimination is the main response to abject poverty.
What happens in Kakanj is beyond shameful and incompetency. It borders murder due to incompetency and lack of reaction. And that is something Bosnia and Herzegovina should never have to deal with again.
I write this because I think there is a need of reaction at the international level to kick into action what I hope is just an inept public administration. And hopefully many of you will feel reading this revolted enough to send a letter asking the EU delegation in Bosnia Herzegovina to react at
You can also send an email with the link of this article or your own letter to the Commissioner on Human Rights of the Council of Europe at and ask him to react to the situation in Kakanj at [email protected]