Supporting reintegration of Roma returnees in Serbia
Irena Vojačkova Sollorano, UNDP resident representative, Osman Balić, President at YUROM Centre, Sonja Licht, president at BFPE and Nenad Ivanišević from the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Issues discussed the challenges Roma returnees are facing and the importance of providing support to them.
Supporting reintegration of Roma Returnees
A new pilot project entitled “Reintegration of Roma Returnees in Serbia” aims at providing a better access to employment, education and housing of Roma population who were denied asylum in Germany and countries of the EU. The project is carried out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) and Standing Conference of Roma Associations of Citizens – League of Roma.
At the conference that took place on July 13, Irena Vojačkova Sollorano, UNDP Resident Representative, Osman Balić, President of YUROM Centre, Sonja Licht, President of BFPE and Nenad Ivanišević, State Secretary in the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Issues, among other participants, discussed the challenges Roma returnees are facing and the importance of providing support to them.
Four out of five registered returnees under the readmission agreement are Roma. Capacities of local self-governments for dealing with readmission of this scale are limited. The 2015 migration crisis posed severe challenges for the European Union and had an impact on all asylum-related policies. Despite the fact that only one percent of requests submitted so far in Germany and other EU countries were considered admissible, Serbian citizens continue to apply for the asylum. The increase of unfounded asylum applications lodged by Serbian citizens threatens to jeopardize the visa-free regime granted to Serbia in 2009.
The exact number of rejected Serbian asylum seekers who are forced to return is unknown. It is difficult to separate them from the returnees on voluntary basis. However, as Irena Vojačkova Sollorano noted, “80% of 2,800 returnees registered in 2015 are Roma”. She added that existing national frameworks do not offer practical solutions, often leaving returnees without proper assistance for their reintegration in Serbian society.
“UNDP aims to work on ensuring that Roma returnees have better access to employment, education and housing and the only way we can support Roma reintegration in a sustainable way is to do it in partnership: partnership between different levels of government, between government and civil society, between international organizations and government and between government and private sector.”
Better living conditions will result in a lower number of asylum seekers, who decide to leave the country because of poverty, lack of shelter, inadequate health and social services, unemployment, discrimination, combined with low education and lack of personal documentation.