Roma in Serbia Cannot Access the Social Welfare System
10 July 2002
Various local non-governmental organisations in Serbia report that numerous Roma in the country have difficulties in accessing the state welfare system, and their applications for governmental social aid are refused in high numbers on unclear grounds. For instance, on April 24, 2002, Mr Aca Vujičić, president of the Romani Association of Požega, a town in western Serbia, informed the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Minority Rights Center (MRC), an ERRC local partner in Serbia, of the unfair treatment of many Roma by the local social welfare centre. According to Mr Vujičić, the centre has reportedly refused Romani applications for social assistance for a number of arbitrary reasons. Mr Vujičić told MRC that, for example, the application of his mother, 67-year-old Ms Mila Vujičić, had recently been refused on the grounds that her son had reportedly “promised to provide her monthly with 2000-2600 Yugoslav dinars (approximately 32-42 euros)” and also because she owned a stereo system. Similarly, on April 29, 2002, the Committee for Human Rights Leskovac told MRC that the Center for Social Work in Leskovac had recently denied assistance to hundreds of Roma in the Leskovac area, for similar reasons. A September 2001 analysis of the needs of the Yugoslav Romani community by the Belgrade branch of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) reports the following regarding the average income of Serbian Roma: “The average monthly salary for the few Roma who have steady jobs in the workplace is approximately DM 50 […], which is less than a third of the (current) average salary in Yugoslavia and well below the povertyline. In the households where there is income from a secondary job, there is an additional boost of only 38 DM […] a month.”
The UN OCHA report also stated that “[D]espite the fact that they constitute a
large marginal group with special needs and particularities, the Roma do not fall under a separate category within the social welfare system. Being indiscriminately grouped together with all other social beneficiaries, their specific needs […] fail to be addressed. In general, the inability of the social welfare system and government attention to adequately address Roma needs undoubtedly contributes toward the continuing cycle of poverty, unemployment and low education level.” The complete text of the report is available at: http://www.reliefweb.int.
(Committee for Human Rights Leskovac, ERRC, Minority Rights Center, UN OCHA)