Roma in Serbia: How safe they feel and do they see improvements?

Project articles:

Publication ‘Roma women and men and security sector reform in the Republic of Serbia’ brings results of CENTRE's research on security problems of the Roma population. It is first research of this kind which analyzed perceptions of Roma women and men about own security and policies of Ministry of Interior, police and Ministry of Defense, as main actors in security sector, towards this vulnerable group.

Research was conducted in period August 2013 - June 2014 and supported by the Democratization Departments of OSCE Serbia as part of the project ‘Consolidating Democratization Process in the Security Sector in Serbia’, financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Research results were presented in Kragujevac, Belgrade and Nis with great interest of media, including four-page article in Politika Magazine, articles of, Politika, interview at Radio Belgrade, reports of all national agencies - Tanjug, BETA, Fonet, portals B92, Blic, RTS, Novi magazin, Danas, Energyobserver, as well as Sumadia press, Channel 9 Kragujevac, online portal of the City of Kragujevac, online portal of the City of Nis, TV production Roma World, portal and channel of the NTV Nis, TV Belle Amie, TV Zona Plus, Telepress, Gradski portal 018, and Niske novine.

Key research findings were based on interviews with members of Roma communities in Kragujevac, Nis, Vranje, Bujanovac, Subotica and Zemun, as well as interviews with members of local communities who are in charge of security improvement, and with representatives of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence. As part of the project CENTRE had organized round table and discussed initial research findings with broad spectrum of stakeholders in the area of inclusion, human rights and security sector reform.

In addition, analysis of media writing on Roma was conducted.

Research finding indicated that Roma population perceives unfavorable socio-economic status as key security threat due to unemployment, problems with personal documents and health and social care. In addition, observed discrimination, both institutional and one coming from the majority population, is perceived as a security threat. One of the most important findings is that Roma population differently perceives security threats depending on the local environment and the level of social integration. Scale of perceived threats varies among different subgroups of studied Roma population. For ‘domicile’ Roma characteristic is high degree of integration into society, while the displaced Roma face security threats connected with existential problems. Research findings have confirmed gender differences in perception of security threats. Roma women, regardless of local context are primarily concerned with the security of children.

On the basis of perceptions of members of Roma community and problems identified and dealt with by the police departments in local areas research has concluded that police are partially solving urgent security problems of Roma population. On the other side, findings have indicated that Roma women and men express confidence and respect for the Serbian Armed Forces, although they have almost no direct experience with the SAF nor understand changes this institution went through.

Prevailing opinion among research participants is that better representation of Roma minority in the security sector institutions would facilitate realization of rights and improvement of social status of Roma women and men. Interviewed members of security structures have stated that low level of education of Roma population is key obstacle for achieving their better representation in educational and professional segments of security sector.

Based on research findings, CENTRE has formulated recommendations for Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense with the aim to contribute to the improvement of security of Roma women and men in the Republic of Serbia. Recommendations relate to treatment, education, training and employment, as well as establishing monitoring and report measures in accordance with legal obligation on minority representation in state administration. Given that the research has confirmed importance of local context, formation or strengthening of local security councils and inclusion of Roma nongovernmental organization and Roma coordinators in their work was recommended.

Publication ‘Roma women and men and security sector in the Republic of Serbia’ is available for download here.