Zoran Pašalić, the Protector of Citizens, requested the Ministry of Family Care and Demography, which took over part of the competence of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy, to repeal the work order issued three years ago to all social welfare centers in Serbia, according to which, among other things, they are obliged to take away in an urgent procedure the children living and working on the streets from the parents and initiate court proceedings for the deprivation of parental rights.
“I reiterate that automatic taking away of the children is not a solution as it is necessary to ascertain whether it is human trafficking, which means abusing children and violating their rights, or those children have nothing to live on. The competent authorities should focus on identifying and rooting out the causes that led to the children being on the streets, and not on the consequences, " said Mr. Pašalić on observing 12 April - International Day of Children Involved in Street Life and/or Work.
Last year, the Protector of Citizens determined that the Ministry of Labor, by issuing a work order in May 2018, had acted contrary to the UN Convention on Child Rights, and had directed social welfare centers to illegal conduct. In 2020, that Ministry refused to act on the Recommendation of the Protector of Citizens to revoke this order.
The problem of "street children" cannot be seen only as a problem of the Ministry of Family Care and Demography. That is an issue for the Ministry of Interior as well which is to identify the organizers of begging and to prosecute the responsible ones where there is room for it, but also for the society as a whole – from the individuals who should be included in noticing the children who work and live on the streets and report it to competent authorities all the way to social welfare centers that should support families to escape poverty or to strengthen parental capacities, Pašalić has said.
In addition to physical labor, the main problems of children involved in living and working on the streets are extreme poverty and uneven access to education, frequently accompanied by discrimination, as well as "child marriages" that deprive them of childhood and prevent them from enjoying their rights, the Protector of Citizens has underscored.
“Street children” have been facing numerous risks that have consequences on their health and development, which is why the competent authorities should make extra efforts to protect child rights and best interests, Pašalić has said.