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Opinions and Statements

Today, on 20 June, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, stated that Serbia understood best the fears and needs of refugees who, in recent years, have been finding asylum in the country since it has accepted nearly half a million of its compatriots, as well as members of other nationalities who had to flee their homes in recent decades.

“Serbia is a country which in the region, in Europe and beyond, has most experience with refugees since more than 500,000 Serbs, as well as members of other nationalities who had to flee Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo and Metohija have found refuge in Serbia over the last 30 years. This resulted in our solidarity with refugees coming here from North Africa and Middle East” Mr. Pašalić said.

Apart from sporadic incidents, all refugees who came to Serbia from the East and are currently staying in it were well received because our citizens are experienced and understanding of all the hardships experienced by people who had to leave everything they have and go into the unknown, Pašalić stated.

The Protector of Citizens highlighted that the position of the refugees from the East is complex and difficult as they do not have personal IDs, they have no money, do not know the language or regulations and that women and unaccompanied children are at particular risk, but that in the Republic of Serbia they are provided with all the necessary conditions for temporary life with full respect for international standards and a high level of understanding and solidarity.

At the moment, there are more than 5,000 migrants in Serbia, most of whom are housed in reception and asylum centers, and all of them are provided with health care, and special curricula have been prepared for school children, Pašalić emphasized.

In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly designated the African Refugee Day - June 20, World Refugee Day, commemorating those who were forced to flee their homes for war, fear of persecution, violence or conflict, but also as a support to those who still face similar problems today.

The Protector of Citizens welcomes the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Higher Education as it adds to stepping up the quality of higher education. The Opinion sent to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development provided suggestions that, in the Institution’s view, would significantly contribute to the improvement of the Draft Law text.

It is stated that a special article should stipulate the prohibition of all forms of discrimination that refers to all the teaching and all activities that a higher education institution performs in carrying out the activity of high education.

The Opinion of the Protector of Citizens reads as well that this would ensure that university autonomy and academic freedom to select teaching content interpreting methods do not include discriminatory views, hate speech and the expression of personal views and opinions that violate and threaten human rights and freedoms, honor, reputation and dignity of students and that create, incite and perpetuates stereotypes and prejudices.

Deputy Protector of Citizens for Gender Equality, Ms. Jelena Stojanović, underscored the importance of improving the position of intersex people in Serbia and reminded that following the Protector of Citizens’ efforts explicit prohibitions of gender based discrimination against intersex people and children had been included in the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination the previous month.

In the talk with the "XY Spectrum" Association representative, Mr. Kristian Ranđelović, Ms. Stojanović emphasized the importance of increasing the visibility of intersex people in our country, but also of raising the knowledge of Serbian citizens about their life and position.

In the process of preparing amendments to the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, the Protector of Citizens submitted to the competent authorities normative opinions on the prohibition of gender based discrimination against intersex people, as well as explicit prohibition of discrimination against children on the same basis, said the Deputy.

Stojanović also welcomed the competent authorities’ decision to include the prohibition of gender based discrimination in the Law on Gender Equality.

In the Regular Annual Reports for 2019 and 2020, that the Institution submits to the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, the Protector of Citizens kept pointing out that, when it comes to protecting the rights of intersex people, the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination and other relevant laws did not not explicitly include the provision on prohibition of discrimination against intersex people, i.e. gender based discrimination, Stojanović added.

After media information that a child from Rakovica, who was removed from his mother to his father's family, frequently runs away from the new family, the Protector of Citizens launched own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of the City Social Welfare Center and the Ministry of Family Welfare and Demography.

Concerning the media information that the child frequently runs away from the father, that the child does not want to live in his family, and that the procedure of entrusting the child, in which Rakovica Department of the City Social Welfare Center is taking part, is ongoing before the court, the Protector of Citizens has requested the City Social Welfare Center to submit within 15 days a detailed report on acting in this case.

The Protector of Citizens has requested the competent Ministry to exercise oversight over the expert work over the Rakovica Department of the City Social Welfare Center in this case and to notify the Protector of Citizens about the findings of the supervision and other undertaken activities.

After the parents from Oslobodioci Beograda Elementary School filed complaints that the school had denied their plea to approve the use of free of charge textbooks for at least some of the school subjects due to harsh material conditions, the Protector of Citizens launched the investigation to control work legality and regularity of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and the School in Belgrade.

Due to the possibility of jeopardizing and violating child rights, the Protector of Citizens has requested the line Ministry and Oslobodioci Beograda Elementary to submit within 15 days detailed information on their acting, as well as on measures and activities taken in this case.

In addition, the Protector of Citizens has requested the line Ministry and the School to notify him whether the Parents’ Council of Oslobodioci Beograda Elementary participated in the procedure of textbooks selection as stipulated by Article 120, paragraph 6, items 3 and 7 of the Law on the Fundamentals of the Education System, and in what way.

The Ministry and the school should further inform the Protector of Citizens on the criteria on which the Oslobodioci Beograda Elementary School based textbooks selection and on the manner how the criteria for textbooks selection were evaluated.

The Protector of Citizens has particularly requested the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development to notify him whether there has been a universal and single manner of evaluating the criteria for the selection of textbooks for all elementary schools.

The complaint that parents from Oslobodioci Beograda Elementary School filed to the Protector of Citizens reads that, due to the harsh financial situation caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, a large number of parents asked the school principal to grant the possibility of procuring at least some of free textbooks approved, as parents report, by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, but that their requests were declined.

Today on the occasion of 12 June – World Day against Child Labor, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, underscored that COVID-19 pandemic had significantly exacerbated the position of children victims of labor exploitation, in particular children living and working on the streets, and made them almost invisible to the competent bodies and the entire society.

“The children who are forced to work physically, primarily “street children” are exposed to multiple risks impacting their health and psycho-physical development. The pandemic increased those risks and put them in a situation where, depending on the epidemiological protection measures, they were almost invisible to the society in such a difficult situation", said Pašalić.

Pašalić has stated that the solution of the problems that children victims of labor exploitation face could be found in recognizing and rectifying the causes why the children were exposed to physical labor, in defining whether that occurs due to the poverty they live in, so they only make income or whether it is an issue of child abuse and human trafficking.

All competent bodies should be engaged in rooting out the causes, from the competent Ministry of Family Welfare and Demography, to the Ministry of the Interior, but also to the Social Welfare Centers, which should provide support to families to escape poverty or strengthen parental capacities, said Pašalić.

“Regarding child labor, one should not disregard the position of children in rural areas and the abuse of their work in agriculture, which is frequently thought of as a part of the traditional culture. All this is a consequence of ignorance and misunderstanding of the phenomenon, child exclusion and unavailability of services”, the Protector of Citizens believes.

The Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, was given public thanks from Bosnia and Herzegovina Ombudspersons Mr. Ljubinko Mitrović, Ms. Jasminka Džumhur and Ms. Nives Jukić due to his engagement on creating opportunities for those who do not hold the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia, and particularly for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to get Covid-19 vaccines in our country.

“We are certain that there has been huge personal influence, as well as the influence of the Institutions they head, on the competent Institutions’ decision to provide vaccines to all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who expressed their interest, on the territory of the entire Republic of Serbia," reads the public statement of gratitude of Bosnia and Herzegovina Ombudspersons posted on the Institution’s official web site.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Ombudspersons underscored that more than 22,000 non-citizens of the Republic of Serbia were vaccinated in Serbia in the previous period.

"The decision of the competent institutions to enable all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina to get vaccinated on the territory of the Republic of Serbia from 3 June 2021, is an example of humanism, good neighborly relations and further strengthening of mutual cooperation and trust between our countries", said the Ombudspersons of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Today, at the Institution’s seat, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, within the Open Doors practice, talked in-person to citizens who have faced problems with various state bodies’ work, and such meetings are to be organized in cities throughout Serbia in the coming period.

Citizens coming to the Institution of the Protector of Citizens today mostly complained about competent authorities’ inertia in cases of illegal construction, violation of rights regarding work experience recording, communal inspection work and social welfare centers.

The practice of direct interviews in-person with citizens, which Pašalić introduced since his arrival at the head of the Institution, has lasted continuously for three years, and was suspended only temporarily during the state of emergency. After that, direct interviews with citizens were organized depending on the epidemiological situation related to the coronavirus pandemic.

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