The Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence successfully implemented the project “Establishing Residential and Financial Autonomy of Roma Returnees and IDPs through Cooperation on Local level” together with partners, the Roma League and the Municipality of Niska Banja. Project was funded by European Union. The aim of the project is to contribute to the social and economic inclusion of Roma returnees and IDPs who have decided to stay in Republic of Serbia by applying a model of cooperation between civil society organizations, local self-government and the private sector.

In the first phase of the project, 164 social maps were made, in cooperation with the Department of Sociology of the University of Nis, all interviews with potential beneficiaries were conducted live, and about 600 family members were included. By making social maps, a selection and selection of 27 families was made, who were provided with assistance in the form of adaptation of their housing facilities, as well as two families whose housing facilities were in a very bad condition and who were bought two houses with a garden.

When making social maps, it turned out that about 2/3 of the respondents did not know about additional opportunities, material assistance and employment assistance, they did not have information about the existence of the Commissioner for Refugees, as well as other organizations that offer assistance. The ones, who knew, lived in the urban part of the municipality.

In parallel with the production of social maps, the BFPE office was opened in Niska Banja, which is recognized as a gathering place, a kind of Info Center not only for project beneficiaries, but also for all those members of the Roma population who need different types of assistance. Also, the office is recognized as less formal than municipal services but faster and more easily accessible. From the beginning of the project, the beneficiaries had at their disposal a lawyer with the help of whom the beneficiaries were entitled to social assistance / health insurance / pension / disability pension, many of them were referred to various trainings and competitions organized by the National Employment Service and organizations like HELP, DIMAK of the Student Union of Roma with whom we have established cooperation.

In order to meet the needs of the beneficiaries and to strengthen them on the way to employment, an analysis of the labor market was conducted in cooperation with CEVES and the Regional Chamber of Commerce, and later 5 memoranda of cooperation were signed with the municipality of Niska Banja to refer users to job interviews in the future as well.

About 110 users underwent various types of training, occupational safety training was intended for users who were later employed as additional assistance in the adaptation of their homes, the so-called “soft skills trainings” intended for women and men, based on the needs analysis of the target group – training for the profession of forklift driver was done as well. The training intended for women was especially interesting, because the idea of founding a women’s cooperative appeared among the users, and they were also given business clothes for future job interviews.

As a highlight of the project, the houses of 27 families were adapted and rehabilitated, and one family received construction materials from the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration’s own funds. The two most endangered families, whose residential buildings could not be adapted, were given 2 rural houses with a garden.