Belgrade, 1 July 2021 - Francine Pickup, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Serbia, and representatives of three local self-governments - Lazar Gojkovic, Mayor of Valjevo, Nagip Arifi, Mayor of Bujanovac, and Aleksandar Petrovic, Assistant Mayor of Novi Sad, signed a Memorandum of Understanding today, which will be the basis for joint work on improving the position and integration of vulnerable returnees from EU countries into local communities in Serbia.
The signing of the MoU marked the launch of an initiative funded by the European Union, which envisages the adoption of a series of measures of social protection and employment and entrepreneurship support, in order to protect this vulnerable group from poverty and social exclusion.
"Local self-governments play a decisive role when it comes to better social and economic integration of returnees, especially Roma, into society. How well they will adapt to the new environment in Serbia depends on whether there are social protection services and employment assistance measures in place and how aligned they are with the needs of returnees. Thanks to EU support, UNDP, in partnership with the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration and local self-governments in Novi Sad, Valjevo and Bujanovac, will ensure that returnees receive the necessary support to live in adequate conditions, educate their children and earn a living," said Francine Pickup, UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia.
According to the data of the Ministry of the Interior of Serbia, from 2011 to 2019, more than 45,000 citizens of the Republic of Serbia returned to the country under to the Readmission Agreement. The majority of returnees came from Germany, and 82.6% of them are Roma.
Upon their return to Serbia, vulnerable returnees face a number of barriers related to housing, access to education and employment.