Roma Discriminated against in Access to Social Benefits in Serbia
10 May 2003
On October 18, 2002, Ms Ljubica Durmišević, an unemployed 24-year-old Romani woman from Niš in southern Serbia, testified to the ERRC, in partnership with the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Minority Rights Center (MRC), that she had given birth to a child three months earlier. According to Ms Durmišević, since giving birth, she had been trying to collect the documents necessary to receive child allowance from the "Sveti Sava" Centre for Social Work in Niš, but still had to get two documents. Ms Durmišević reported that, on the various occasions when she was at the Centre, she was told to come back at a later date. Employees at the Centre reportedly treated Ms Durmišević badly and looked at her as if she had no right to be there. As of December 18, 2002, Ms Durmi-šević had still not received her child allowance.
In another case, on October 8, 2002, Ms Dragica Vasić, a 20-year-old Romani woman from Niš, told the ERRC/MRC, that she and her husband were both unemployed and that they did not receive any kind of social aid. In September 2002, an employee of the "Sveti Sava" Centre reportedly told Ms Vasić and her husband that they did not qualify for social aid because only the sick have this right. She also claimed that she was not paid the allowance automatically paid to childbearing women, equivalent to 56,000 Yugoslavian dinars (approximately 917 Euro).
On the same day, Ms Đulizara Malićević, a 45-year-old Romani woman from Niš, testified to the ERRC/MRC that she had medical papers that certify she is a heart patient with high blood pressure. Despite this, the Centre reportedly denied Ms Malićević access to social aid in 2001 and August 2002, on the grounds that she was able to work. According to her statement, Ms Malićević is forced to sell goods at fairs to survive, even though this could endanger her health.
On October 10, 2002, the ERRC/MRC spoke with Mr Tomislav Stojanović, a statistician at the "Sveti Sava" Centre. Mr Stojanović stated that, as of the last analysis performed two years previous, Roma accounted for one third of social aid recipients in Niš. However, Mr Stojanović expressed the belief that this number should be higher because social aid workers hold discriminatory against Roma. Mr Stojanović further stated to the ERRC/MRC that Roma receive only a portion of the actual amount of social aid that they are entitled to.
Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Yugoslavia succeed on March 12, 2001, states, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance."