International Roma Day: Roma remain one of the most vulnerable groups, continue to face difficult living conditions and discrimination

Apr 8, 2016

Keys to newly-built homes in the hands of Roma IDPs thanks to our partnership with city of Novi Pazar and Swiss (SDC) support for a regional UNDP project for Roma inclusion, Novi Pazar, November 2015

Roma remain one of the most vulnerable groups, continue to face difficult living conditions and discrimination in access to social protection, health, employment and adequate housing, as stated in reports by independent bodies

Belgrade, 8-April-2016 - On the occasion of International Roma Day, the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, the United Nations Country Team in Serbia, the OSCE Mission to Serbia and the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade reaffirm our strong commitment to equality and non-discrimination.

Today, the Romani community, Europe's largest ethnic minority, still experiences multiple discrimination and marginalisation in countries throughout Europe, including Serbia.  Roma remain one of the most vulnerable groups; they continue to face difficult living conditions and discrimination in access to social protection, health, employment and adequate housing, as stated in reports by both relevant international mechanisms and independent bodies of the Republic of Serbia.

Thousands of Roma represent the most vulnerable and marginalised among the population of internally displaced, still facing obstacles in accessing rights and durable solutions.

International and European human rights standards clearly provide for equality before the law and prohibit discrimination on all grounds, including ethnicity. The realisation of Roma inclusion will reinforce everyday democracy and the rule of law. It is the only way to reach a society based on the principle of equality of opportunity where everyone has the right to participate and to be heard.

On this day, we therefore call on all relevant stakeholders to pursue with determination Roma inclusion policies in Serbia, pursuant to the recent adoption of a new Strategy of Social Inclusion of Roma for the Period from 2015-2025 and the Action Plan for Realization of Rights of National Minorities by the Government of Serbia.

The Delegation of the European Union, the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade, the OSCE Mission to Serbia and the United Nations Country Team in Serbia remain committed to improving the lives of Roma in Serbia and ensuring that their fundamental rights are respected, and to supporting our Serbian partners in this endeavour.

International Roma Day is celebrated annually on April 8, in commemoration of the 1971 founding of the International Romani Union, the first major international Romani civic initiative.

Note for editors: statistical information on Roma in Serbia

  • 90% of children in Roma settlements are growing up in poverty. The infant and under-5 mortality rate is two times higher than that of the general population, 15% of Roma children are born with low birth weights, one fifth is malnourished and only 13% are fully immunized.
  • Romani children continue to face discrimination in the education system. Only 6% of children from Roma settlements attend early learning programs, only 64% finish primary school on time, and only 22% attend secondary school (of whom only 15% are girls).
  • Romani women and girls face multi-sectoral discrimination, as well as heightened barriers of access to services, including services for victims of violence. Early, arranged marriage remains an issue in some segments of Serbia’s Romani communities, with very destructive consequences for – in particular – the child bride.

For more information & media inquiries please contact:

Aleksandra Stamenkovic, United Nations Country Team Communications Expert, email: aleksandra.stamenkovic@one.un.org, Phone +381 11 415 5314

Nadezda Dramicanin, Delegation of the EU to Serbia Communications Officer,  

e-mail: Nadezda.DRAMICANIN@eeas.europa.eu, Phone: +381 11 3083 200

Ivana Milatovic, OSCE National Political and Press Affairs Officer,

e-mail: ppiu-serbia@osce.org, Phone +381 11 3606 151

Mona Alghaith, Council of Europe Office, Assistant to the Head of Office, e-mail: mona.alghaith@coe.int, Phone. +381 11 71 555 00

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