After returning to Serbia, returnees face a number of problems that hinder their reintegration, according to the latest research “Socio-economic situation and reintegration of returnees under the Readmission Agreement in Serbia in 2021.”
The publication was created in cooperation with the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration and the Global Programme of German development cooperation “Migration for Development” (PME), which is being implemented by GIZ in Serbia, and with technical support from the research team of the SeConS Development Initiative Group.
In 2020, there were 1,008 registered readmissions, according to the Commissariat, but it is believed that there were about as many unregistered readmissions and that the actual number is twice as high.
Roma, the most vulnerable social group in Serbia, continue to represent the majority of returnees – more than 60% in 2020.
According to the author of the study, Prof. Dr. Slobodan Cvejic, one of the founders of the SeCons group, the issue of returnees under the readmission agreement and their reintegration has been on the political agenda in Serbia since the beginning of negotiations with the EU on visa liberalisation for Serbian citizens in 2007.
The study identifies the main problems as: low education and dropping out of school early, high unemployment and poor quality of employment, low income, and poor housing.
“Poverty and threats to basic social rights among returnees are enormous,” said the study’s author.
As many as 46% of returnee households have a total monthly consumption that is below the minimum net salary in Serbia, and 87% of respondents complain that their household income is insufficient to meet all needs such as food, bills, health care, hygiene, education and local transportation.
“Research has shown that returnees are very inclined to find work, and this is the main area where they need support,” said Marija Bogdanovic, Head of the Global Programmes on Migration for Development (PME) and Migration and Diaspora (PMD) in Serbia and the Head of the DIMAK Centre.
Poor quality of life also goes hand in hand with low wages, so that almost half of the returnees live with more than two problems such as lack of space, damp, a leaky roof or lack of daylight.
According to the research, returnees, especially Roma, face discrimination at almost every step.
Prof. Dr. Cvejic points out that in order to empower returnees, it is necessary to build their skills through lifelong learning and/or training. In addition, economic empowerment programmes for returnees, especially Roma women, need to be strengthened.
With regard to strengthening the local institutional framework to support the integration of returnees, Cvejic said it is necessary to involve all relevant local actors from the public and civil sectors in the process of developing policy documents and to regularly inform them about all aspects of public policy that are important for the integration of returnees. In addition, the issue of returnee reintegration should be highlighted in other relevant local documents and administrative bodies.
The entire study can be found at this link.