Subotica: 12,000 Roma citizens to arrive after readmission
Where should the ‘returnees’ be accomodated?
According to the data available from the Association of Refugees and Displaced Persons, 15000 persons (including 12,000 Roma) should arrive in Subotica soon. The main problems facing them are the lack of education and proper health care.
A town on the border between Hungary and Serbia, Subotica has been dubbed “the gate to Europe”; also, its location on the Pannonian plane gained the city the title of ‘Pannonian beauty’in many songs and stories. A sizeable part of the Roma population in Serbia is gravitating around this city, due to its border position. This trend is not new and it was largely caused by the Subotica Market, a popular flea market.
Started by cash-strapped locals in the nineties, this trend has gained momentum, and since many of the people involved in the resale of goods at the flea market come from neighboring Hungary, a large part of the Roma population decided to sell fruits and vegetables instead, in the open market. After the war in Kosovo, the last wave of Roma refugees also settled in this town. The original intention of these citizens was to reach the EU, but a good portion of them settled in Subotica, together with family and friends.
It is difficult to determine the actual number of settlers, since many are not
officially recorded. The upcoming census will hopefully give a clearer picture of this. To what extent is it possible to integrate the Roma living in Subotica? The success stories are rare, but fortunately they do exist. One of them is the employment of Roma for public works by the company Palic Ludaš during the tourist season in Palic. There are six people, originally from Kosovo and who have completed primary school, currently working for this company. All of them have welfare for the first time in their life, which would enable them to become more involved in their community, and help other young people in the long run. They are in charge of cutting trees, the maintanance of a large, local park and of the Palić natural park. It’s interesting, they say; to be part of “mixed groups” including non-Roma. They get along well with their colleagues from Palic, and even hang out together after work – said the Assistant Mayor and responsible for investments, Jasmin Šečić.
Let us remind the reader that the article 31 of the EU resolution on Serbia adopted in February 2011 says that 15000 refugees that should return as a result of the readmission agreements between Serbia and other EU countries. The same information available to the Association of Refugees and Displaced Persons states that 15000 persons should arrive in Subotica (including 12,000 Roma).
Based on the information available to our association, regarding the number of refugees from the territory of former Yugoslavia in 2009, we asked the city and the mayor, as the future chairman of readmission, to urgently make an action plan and form the Commission that was financed from EU funds so we could solve this problem in time and be prepared for this situation. We never got an answer although we contacted them several times, including through the media. “Still, all these (displaced) persons have Subotica as their last address in the travel documents – says Verica Grgurović from the ‘City of Subotica’ Association for refugees and displaced persons.
According to their data, all 120 municipalities in our country formed all the required Commissions, except for Subotica. There are 5465 displaced Roma persons from Kosovo in Subotica, and the information on them is solely obtained on the basis of humanitarian assistance received by our Association….Another important fact is that 58 municipalities in Serbia received ‘mentors’ for Roma issues, and I can’t be 100% sure whether our municipality is in one of those 58. Because of my participation as a member of the board in the Assembly of Serbia to reduce poverty, I have documentation regarding the resolution adopted on 9 March 2011 and the Strategy of Roma Inclusion to be discussed by the committee next April and I consider it important that the appeals and demands to the city of Subotica should become reality- that the necessary institutions should be organized and this vulnerable population be helped. The EU emphasized this as one of the most pressing issues faced by our country.
And apparently, one of the main problems is the lack of IDs…. In addition to that, another large problem is the elementary school education of children, inadequate housing and lack of basic living conditions. Our Association has data about the local Roma settlement “Zorka”, which offered extremely rough living conditions that we presented to the Commission for Refugees and to all relevant authorities once we became aware of them. Oncean action plan is outlined, it is necessary to form a committee, whose members would be representatives of police, the Centre for Social Welfare, Red Cross, our Association, Roma, Roma mentors, mayors and other relevant institutions that could contribute to its implementation. – says Verica Grgurović.
Subotica has numerous programs for the education of Roma; in spite of that, other problems remain: finding a job, obtaining health care and even accessing education. The example offered by the city-owned company “Palic Ludoš” is only a drop in the ocean when it comes to solving these problems. We wonder whether, by the time this text will be published, we’d get any feedback from the city of Subotica about the existence of a Commission charged of solving the problems of returnees, as well as Roma integration.