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Our research focuses on the problems of modern spatial, social and economic marginalization of the Belgrade slum population, as well as on the measures of improving the living conditions in them. The slums on the territory of Belgrade are numerous, dis-persed, heterogeneous in structure, size and type, and the common denominator that could express the typical situation is poverty of their population. The paper also included an analysis of the causes of the spatial concentration of slums, the increase in population, exclusion of the population, poverty and the attitudes of the Belgrade population toward these settlements and their inhabitants. A significant part of the paper refers to the main life problems of the Roma, but of the Ashkali and Egyptians as well, who mostly inhabit the slums (unemployment, illiteracy, begging, poor housing conditions, health problems etc.). Measures for improving the living conditions in Belgrade slums, aiming at the integration of their inhabitants into the spatial and social space of Belgrade are proposed in the final part of the paper.
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TRAMES, 2013, 17(67/62), 1, 55–86
BELGRADE SLUMS –
LIFE OR SURVIVAL ON THE MARGINS OF SERBIAN SOCIETY?
Dejan Šabić, Aleksandar Knežević, Snežana Vujadinović, Rajko Golić,
Miroljub Milinčić, and Marko Joksimović
University of Belgrade
Abstract. Our research focuses on the problems of modern spatial, social and economic
marginalization of the Belgrade slum population, as well as on the measures of improving
the living conditions in them. The slums on the territory of Belgrade are numerous, dis-
persed, heterogeneous in structure, size and type, and the common denominator that could
express the typical situation is poverty of their population. The paper also included an
analysis of the causes of the spatial concentration of slums, the increase in population,
exclusion of the population, poverty and the attitudes of the Belgrade population toward
these settlements and their inhabitants. A significant part of the paper refers to the main
life problems of the Roma, but of the Ashkali and Egyptians as well, who mostly inhabit
the slums (unemployment, illiteracy, begging, poor housing conditions, health problems
etc.). Measures for improving the living conditions in Belgrade slums, aiming at the
integration of their inhabitants into the spatial and social space of Belgrade are proposed in
the final part of the paper.
Key words: slums, poverty, Roma, exclusion, integration, Belgrade, Serbia
DOI: 10.3176/tr.2013.1.03
1. Introduction
Inadequate living conditions in slums are recognized as one of the apparent
signs of extreme poverty that affects thousands of people in Belgrade, especially
the Roma. The negative effects on the poor households and bad infrastructure are
multiplied due to residential segregation which has its roots in the centuries of
marginalization of the Roma in all countries of Central and South Eastern Europe
(SEE). Poor living conditions in the slums reduce the chances of the Roma to find
jobs and to obtain social security, they jeopardize their health, and separate them
from the rest of Belgrade inhabitants.
Dejan Šabić et al.
56
This research aims at studying living conditions in Belgrade slums and defining
measures how to integrate the population of these enclaves into the social space of
the capital by: 1) enabling access to public services and infrastructure, 2) obtaining
property rights, 3) providing a healthy life for both the family and an individual as
well as facilitating lives of women and children, 4) achieving adequate living
conditions compliant with a lifestyle acceptable to them and 5) fostering the
residential culture accepted by the society as a whole. The above–mentioned is the
basis that could contribute to the reduction and to gradual elimination of social and
spatial segregation of Roma and other citizens who live in Belgrade slums.
The spatial and social isolation of the inhabitants of Belgrade slums takes place
at the local level and it depends on the interaction with the majority of the popula-
tion. This study focuses on living conditions in the slums and the implications of
such a way of life for the wider local community on the one hand and on measures
of spatial and social inclusion of the population from the slums in a wider geo-
graphical setting.
From the viewpoint of the local community, life in the slums is synonymous
with the poverty of their inhabitants which is the first condition for determining
susceptibility. In addition to that, the slum residents take poor quality nourishment
and they have difficulties in obtaining basic health services. The largest number of
children living in slums are underweight. Due to poverty, Roma and other slum
inhabitants are often exposed to multiple negative influences, which distances them
from education and employment. The extreme poverty is far larger in Belgrade than
official statistics show, because many slum inhabitants do not possess identity
documents and they have no permanent residence, particularly the Roma refugees
from Kosovo, who have not been accommodated in the collective centres.
Traditional milieu, unfortunately, further deteriorates the status of the Roma
population in the slums. They rarely find permanent jobs. This reduces their chances
of getting away from poverty and undermines their abilities to control their own
lives. The local communities should understand the above-mentioned determinants
of slum inhabitants’ vulnerability and they should incorporate inclusive measures
into national and local politics. That is a viable way of solving the challenges faced
by the residents of Belgrade slums.
The study is structured into six sections: introduction, methods and data,
theoretical background including literature, results of the research on living
conditions in Belgrade slums, discussion defining the measures how to integrate
the Roma enclaves in the social space of Belgrade, and, finally, the conclusion.
2. Methods and data
This analysis is based on the data taken from the available demographic
assessments, on the research conducted by the authors in the slums of the central
Belgrade municipalities, as well as on the fieldwork carried out in the slums in
suburbia. Additional information was collected about the slum living conditions in
Belgrade Slums
57
the municipalities of Novi Beograd, Stari Grad, Zvezdara, Savski Venac, Zemun,
Palilula, Čukarica, and Surčin, over a three-month period in 2011. These data were
compared with and complemented by the Statistical Office of Serbia, 1948–2002.
Since World War II, eight censuses have been conducted, six of which in the
SFR of Yugoslavia, one in the FR of Yugoslavia (State Union of Serbia and
Montenegro), while the last census was conducted in 2011, in the Republic of
Serbia, as a separate country. When talking about the ethnic structure of the
population of Serbia, according to the results of the mentioned censuses, we must
bear in mind the fact that we only deal with the number of the ‘nationally
declared’, which does not always coincide with the ethnic origin. This points to
the influence of various factors on national declaration, such as socio-cultural,
socio-political, economic, and in the former Yugoslavia, even religious. The
exclusive use of subjective criteria had, to some extent, somewhat harmful impact
on the accuracy of census results concerning this feature, because it allowed
obvious fluctuations in the number of certain ethnic groups (Knežević 2011).
This claim is supported by today's ethno-demographic picture of Serbia, which
is basically a result of the national policies in socialist Yugoslavia, which were,
according to Radovanović (1995), dominated by the so-called Yugoslav model of
socialism. During World War II and immediately afterwards, this policy created
two nations – the Montenegrin and the Macedonian, and soon, the third – Muslim,
which influenced the creation of floating and vague ethno-cultural identities of the
Yugoslavs and the so-called regionally undeclared.
In the study of demographics of the Belgrade slums, there are many problems
which we will try to explain. As already mentioned, the most numerous inhabitants
of the slums are the Roma. Although the Roma are found in the statistical
nomenclature of nationalities of all the censuses conducted in the period 1948–2002,
there are significant fluctuations in their number from one census to another.
In the SFR of Yugoslavia, changing attitudes to declaring national affiliation
and strong ideological and political influence on the national question variously
influenced, through a range of proposed solutions, the quality of the obtained
ethno-statistics. Therefore, the census methodology had to be in accordance with
that, and the constitutional principle of free will to declaring ethnicity was sup-
posed to show the equality of all citizens and freedom of the national declaration.
The main criterion that was used, according to the census methodology, was a
subjective declaration, which meant that every person had the right (not) to declare
their nationality. No documents were needed as evidence, only the objective facts
were expected to coincide with the declaration.
It is important to bear in mind that all the censuses in Serbia undoubtedly
reflected the current social and political conditions that directly or indirectly
influenced preparation, implementation, declaration and the final results of a
national census. Thus, the census of 1948 was of more provisional character and
its purpose was primarily to establish the circumstances after World War II. The
emphasis was not on the ethnic characteristics. The census in 1971 was conducted
in terms of radicalization of the relations between the socialist republics and the
Dejan Šabić et al.
58
federation. The census in 1981 was conducted at the time of a politically
motivated strike. The census of 1991 took place just before the disintegration of
Yugoslavia and the civil wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was
characterized by a major boycott by the Albanians in Kosovo. Due to the atmo-
sphere of major socio-political changes at the beginning of the disintegration of
the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, as well as due to the armed forces of
international protectorate in Kosovo (under UNSCR 1244), the 2002 census was
not conducted on the entire territory of Serbia. The last population census in 2011
was the first census conducted in Serbia as an independent country and it was
boycotted by most of the Albanians in the municipalities of Bujanovac, Preševo
and Medveđa.
Oscillations in the number of Roma in Serbia censuses were affected by the
following factors: the census methodology, i.e. the criteria of ethnic composition,
and the principle of subjectivity in the nationality declaration. As Knežević (2008)
observes, the differences in the number of the Roma in the censuses of Serbia
occur without any linearity and cannot be compared with a projected trends of
population. The main weakness in the statistical registration of Roma, Knežević
(2008) says, is a changing attitude to the declaration in the national population
censuses. In this context, a dramatic decline in the number of Roma in Serbia of
almost six times when the census of 1961 is compared to the census of 1953 can
be interpreted.
Table 1. Trends in the number of Roma in Serbia
1948 1953 1961 1971 1981 1991 2002
52,181 58,800 9,826 49,894 110,959 138,645 108,193
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia, 1948–2002
*
Data on the ethnic structure of the population of Serbia according to the 2011 census is still
unavailable. As the data on the ethnic structure is observed only for the census years, the year
2002 is the last analyzed in this study.
According to the 1991 census, there were 138,645 Roma in Serbia. In this
census three new nationalities were included – the Bunjevci, the Egyptians, and
the Šokci. We assume that many Roma declared themselves as Egyptians in the
censuses of 1991 and 2002, or as Ashkali in 2002.
In terms of ethnic characteristics, the 2002 census was one of the most
comprehensive as it included ethnicity, mother tongue and religion. According to
the census methodology, the term national or ethnic origin was used, and each
person could freely declare or not declare their nationality affiliation. According to
2002 census, there were 108,193 Roma in Serbia, and it is assumed that a large
number of them declared themselves as Serbs, some as Ashkali and Egyptians.
Nationality affiliation, because of its fluctuating meaning (Čvorović 2004),
influenced the population dynamics of the Roma in Serbia, and it also changed the
Belgrade Slums
59
number of modalities as some new nationalities appeared over time – Yugoslavs,
Muslims, Ashkali, Egyptians and others.
Another factor that may explain the significant changes in the number of Roma
population in Serbia is the subjectivity of enumerated people. This allows the
possibility of temporary or permanent changes of their national affiliation. In the
circumstances of political crises, many Roma declared themselves in the census as
the majority population – Serbs, and their determination was often temporary – it
lasted only during the census, due to political or socio-psychological reasons. On
the other hand, some Roma consider themselves as Serbs, as a result of assimila-
tion and their desire to identify with the majority.
On the one hand, according to Knežević (2008, 2010), constant suspicion and
mistrust of the Roma toward population censuses are present, and the census-
takers are often provided with the data by people who are illiterate. On the other
hand, the census-takers themselves do not often go to the slums, and some people
remain unlisted. This is another factor that affects the inaccuracy of statistics in the
number of Roma. The construction of new settlements-slums in big cities is
common among the Roma. It is difficult to obtain accurate information about the
population there, so the data often fluctuate. Thus, the population of the slums can
be divided into two categories: stationary and temporary or mobile. Stationary
people are those who live in a slum, while mobile are those people who live in the
streets and move around the city by day, sleep on the sidewalks, entrances to
residential blocks at night or change slums.
3. Theoretical background
Although there are many controversies about the name Roma in European
literature, we chose this name because it is also used by international organizations
and initiatives, such as the Roma Education Fund or the Decade of Roma Inclusion.
This paper deals with the population of Belgrade slums, most of whom are Roma.
The United Nations, the US Library of Congress and other international associa-
tions use the term ‘Romani’ as an adjective and a noun as well (‘Romanies’ is the
plural form). According to Kertesi and Kezdi (2011), in central and SEE, the name
Roma is used both as a noun (plural: Roma) and as an adjective. They further state
the name ‘Gypsy’ is derived from the erroneous assumption made by the Europeans
who, upon encountering these dark-skinned and dark-eyed travellers, assumed they
arrived from the east and thought they must be Egyptian or ‘Gyptians’. Fraser
(1995) notes that the Byzantine Greek label, ‘Atsinganoi’ (‘untouchables’), for this
population, is a derogatory allusion to fortune-tellers or sorcerers, and variations of
this name continue to be used throughout Europe. According to Arayici (2008) and
Kertesi and Kezdi (2011), the alternative local names such as ‘Tsigane’, ‘Zigeuner’,
‘Gitanos’, ‘Calo’, ‘Gitanos’, ‘Zingari’, ‘Cigain’, ‘Cygan’ or ‘Cigany’ are also dis-
liked by many Romanies because of negative connotations about lifestyle and image
that are inaccurate for most of them.
Dejan Šabić et al.
60
According to Revenga et al. (2002), while some Roma groups are nomadic, the
vast majority of Roma in SEE have settled, some during the Austro–Hungarian
and Ottoman empires, and others more recently under socialism. For many Roma,
the collapse of the socialist system, according to Milcher and Fisher (2011), has
led to an erosion of security in jobs, housing and other services, and in the absence
of viable economic opportunities to increasing poverty, which can be confirmed
by the example of Serbia (Todorović 2011).
More recently, the name Roma has been used to refer to this increasingly large
and diverse population of 8–12 million in central and SEE countries. According to
Barany (2002) and Kertesi and Kezdi (2011), in the early 1990s, the percentage of
Roma in the total population was close to 10% in Bulgaria and Slovakia, 4–7% in
Hungary, Macedonia and Romania and around 2% in Albania and the Czech
Republic.
How have people treated the poor over the centuries? The Roma are one of
SEE’s largest and oldest ethnic minorities. According to Fraser, the Roma are
believed to have migrated over the course of several centuries from northern India.
No one knows exactly what the reasons to leave India were, but it is assumed that
they lived in Persia before the arrival in the Byzantine Europe at the beginning of
the 10th century. Kenrick (2007) indicates that by the 14th century, the Romanies
had reached the SEE countries; by the 15th century, Germany, France, Italy, Spain
and Portugal; and by the 16th century, Russia, Denmark, Scotland and Sweden.
Some Romanies migrated from Persia through North Africa, reaching Europe via
Spain in the 15th century etc.
According to Kertesi and Kezdi (2011), some Roma in central and SEE, as a
heterogeneous group, speak dialects of the Romani language, whereas others
adopted the language of their host country. The vast majority of the Roma of
central and SEE countries settled a long time ago and their romanticized image as
travellers is based on exceptions, which are often cases from Western Europe. The
Roma were enslaved in some parts of Europe for centuries, and they were often
targeted by law enforcement. Historical evidence on the wellbeing of the Roma
communities and their relationship to mainstream societies is relatively scarce
(Barany 2002, Guy 2001, Hancock 2002, Kertesi and Kezdi 2011).
The first written document referring to Romani in Serbia dates from 1348,
when Stefan Dušan, the Emperor of the Serbs and Greeks presented some Roma
slaves to the monastery of Prizren, in Kosovo (Đorđević 1924, Todorović 2011).
Stojančević (1984) points out that, especially after the defeat of the Turks at
Vienna and Budim, the countries south of the Danube were affected by strong
migration currents of the Roma who were retreating with the Turkish army,
penetrating the interior of Turkey and moving toward the Balkans. Zirojević
(1976) revealed the first details about the Roma settlements in Belgrade in 1536.
Đorđević (1984, 1984a) differentiates between – Turkish Gypsies, White Gypsies,
Vlach Gypsies and Hungarian Gypsies in Serbia. Turkish Gypsies were the Roma
who gradually came to Serbia from the Turkish areas after the fall of Serbia under
the Turks (Todorović 2011). They are divided into two groups: Gadzikano Roma –
Belgrade Slums
61
for whom it is not known when they moved to Serbia and Korane or Korakan
Roma, whose arrival in Serbia is remembered. Most of them are of Muslim
religion. White Gypsies live apart from the Serbs, they are of Muslim religion and
they live in dense homes. The Vlach Gypsies are Orthodox Roma. The Vlach
Gypsies in Serbia themselves differentiate between themselves, and thus are
divided into the following subgroups: Rudari or Aurari, Laješ, and Lajas or Lajeci,
and travellers. Hungarian Gypsies came from Hungary to Serbia in order to sell
their products and horses in the fairs, without any intention to stay, but they
eventually settled permanently in Voivodina (Čvorović 2004, Todorović 2011).
According to Milcher (2006), O’Higgins and Ivanov (2006), Ringold et al.
(2005) and UNDP (2002), all available data about the Roma population indicate
widespread poverty, low formal employment, low education, poor health and
social exclusion in all central and SEE countries. According to Čvorović (2004),
Mitrović (1990), Petrović (1992) and Stanković (1992), the Roma population are
the most unemployed, the least educated, the poorest, the most welfare-dependent,
and the most segregated in Serbia. Furthermore, Čvorović (2004) explains, they
have the most children and the most divorces. At the time of the study, all
informants were recipients of welfare. Since the Roma are known to have
additional children in order to receive social help, the findings of this study should
be taken with some caution (Vukanović 1983).
The Ashkali ethnic group was introduced in the statistical classification of
nationality in the 2002 census. There are no extensive written materials about
them, and their appearance is mainly related to Kosovo. According to Duijzings
(1998), they accepted the Albanian language, Islamic religion and they adjusted to
the strict norms of Albanian tribes. They are clearly different from the Roma as
they strictly adhere to the Albanian customary law, especially within family
relationships, they respect the rules of endogamy and rarely marry to other nations.
Because of their assimilation, the Ashkali claim a higher social status in relation to
the Roma (Duijzings 1998). In Serbia (excluding Kosovo), in the 2002 census,
there were 584 Ashkali, 70.7% of whom live in Central Serbia and 29.3% in
Voivodina. The largest number of Ashkali live in Belgrade – 181, or 30.99%,
mostly in slums. The Ashkali are concentrated in the same four municipalities of
Belgrade (Novi Beograd, Zemun, Palilula and Čukarica), where the largest con-
centrations of Roma and Egyptians are, while in the other 12 municipalities
Ashkali ethnic group is not found.
Until the 1991 census, the Egyptians were not found in the statistical classifica-
tion of nationalities, so it can be assumed that, for the most part, in Kosovo, where
most of them were, they declared as Albanians, as they declared their mother
tongue was Albanian, and religion – Muslim. Although in 2002 the official
statistics of Serbia included the Egyptians in the official statistical nomenclature of
nationalities, there might be a basis for assumptions that the Egyptians and Roma
are a unique ethnic entity, while the reasons for ethnic mimicry should be sought
in their desire for separation from the corps of Roma (Knežević 2010). According
to the
2002 census, there are 814 Egyptians in Serbia. The largest number of
Dejan Šabić et al.
62
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia, Belgrade.
Figure 1. Distribution of the Roma population in Serbia in 2002.
Belgrade Slums
63
Source: EMS (2004) Ethnical Mosaic of Serbia – according to the data of the 2002 census. Belgrade:
Ministry of Human and Minority Rights of the State Union Serbia–Montenegro.
Figure 2. Distribution of the Ashkali and their share in the total population of the Ashkali in Serbia
in 2002.
Dejan Šabić et al.
64
Egyptians live in Belgrade, 597 (73.34%), most of them in the municipality of
Zemun, 276 (44.7%), mainly in the slums. That is followed by Stari Grad
municipality with 87, Palilula with 68 and Novi Beograd with 50 Egyptians.
According to the Census of population, households and dwellings in 2002, most
shares of the ethnic community of Egyptians in the structures of Serbia are similar to
the respective shares of the Roma population. In almost all ranks of the ethnic
communities in Serbia, in terms of the selected indicators, the Egyptians were right
next to the Roma, and particularly prominent is the average age which in 2002
amounted to 27.34 years, which puts the Egyptians, with an aging index of only
0.12, among the youngest population in Serbia (including the Roma and Ashkali).
According to Jakšić and Bašić (2005), 261 slums were located in Serbia in 2002,
137 of which were in Belgrade. According to Milić et al. (1999), there is a large
concentration of Roma in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, where they live in
approximately 130 ‘cigan–mala’ (Gypsy slums) or settlements. According to Čvoro-
vić (2004), the religious standing of Roma has always depended on the current
political climate. Those who came with the Turks or across Muslim countries in the
Middle Ages are Muslims and they inhabit urban areas, such as Belgrade. On the
other hand, Čvorović continues, the Karavlax Gypsies are Orthodox Christians who
immigrated from Romania, where they became Christians. However, some Christian
Roma are ex-Muslims.
As Jakšić and Bašić (2005) state, in 2002 there were 593 Roma settlements
exceeding 100 inhabitants in Serbia, where 201,353 native Roma and 46,238
Roma displaced from Kosovo lived. This number of Roma is much higher than the
official data from the 2002 census, when 108,193 Roma were enumerated. This is
the result of objective and subjective difficulties in enumerating the Roma popula-
tion, and points to the fact that a certain number of Roma was not included in the
official statistics. Most Roma settlements are in the municipalities of Šabac (40)
and Požarevac (20), while there are 40 municipalities where none were recorded.
In the Belgrade Metropolitan Area, 102 Roma settlements were enumerated
(17.2% of the total number of Roma settlements in Serbia), most of them in the
municipalities of Palilula – 15, Obrenovac – 14, Čukarica – 13, Zemun – 11 and
Voždovac – 10.
Besides the above mentioned authors, a major contribution to the study of
Roma and other ethnic minorities living on the margins of Serbian society was
given by: Acković (1992, 1993, 1994, 2001), Barjaktarević (1970), Bašić (2000,
2002, 2002a, 2003), Đorđević (2004), Đorđević and Mašović (1999), Đurić
(1986), Đurović (2000, 2002, Jakšić (2000, 2002, 2002a), Macura (2000), Mitro-
vić (1990, 2000, 2000a, 2001), Mitrović and Zajić (1998), Prokić (1992), Prokić
et al. (1993), Radojević (1984), Rakić–Vodinelić (1998), Ratković–Njegovan
(2011), Tomašević and Đurić (1988) etc. Their work represents a starting point for
our research on the population of Belgrade slums.
Belgrade Slums
65
Source: EMS (2004) Ethnical Mosaic of Serbia – according to the data of the 2002 census. Belgrade:
Ministry of Human and Minority Rights of the State Union Serbia–Montenegro.
Figure 3. Distribution of the Egyptians and their share in the total population of the Egyptians in
Serbia in 2002.
Dejan Šabić et al.
66
Source: based on the data by Jakšić and Bašić (2005).
Figure 4. Spatial distribution of the Roma settlements in municipalities in Serbia.
Belgrade Slums
67
4. Research results on Belgrade slums
In this paper ‘slum’ means any place, mostly inhabited by the Roma, and more
rarely, by the Ashkali, Egyptians, Serbs and other nationalities, in which the infra-
structural and social conditions and the environment are so poor that they have
harmful effects to health, social and mental state of its population. Slums are small
houses built from waste or reused materials. They are often improvised from tin
Source: based on the field data and supplemented by data from Jakšić and Bašić
(2005).
Figure 5. Spatial distribution of the slums in the Belgrade Metropolitan Area.
Dejan Šabić et al.
68
sheets, nylon, cardboard or wooden boards. The slums in the territory of Belgrade
are sometimes formed at locations around the abandoned, usually temporary
structures used by construction workers. When the construction works end, the
Roma move into these buildings permanently, and use them as the core around
which a slum spreads. These locations are left without the communal infrastructure:
water, sewer, street lighting, paved roads, schools, shops, and in many cases such
settlements are buried in garbage, which the communal services do not take away.
According to Stanković (1992), ethno-urban islands inhabited by the Roma in
Serbia and in Belgrade have traditionally been peripheral, although recently some
of them have become part of the central urban area (for example Belgrade, Niš,
etc.) due to intense urban expansion. Slums, however, usually persist as ethnic-
urban backwaters and as material evidence of a traditionally miserable social
existence. Their 'historical role' in the preservation of ethnic compactness and
spontaneous fostering of the Roma cultural identity has paid a high price: by
almost total ethnic marginality in all fields of socioeconomic and cultural life.
Table 2. Trends in the number of the declared Roma in Belgrade 1948-2002 and percentage in
relation to Serbia
1948 1953
*
1961 1971 1981 1991 2002
The number of the Roma in Belgrade 378 / 186 3,348 9,086 14,220 19,191
% in the total number of the Roma in Serbia 0.7 / 1.9 6.7 8.2 10.3 17.7
*
Data on the number of the Roma in Belgrade in 1953 was not published.
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia, 1948–2002.
Fluctuations in the number of the declared Roma in Belgrade show significant
irregularities that cannot be demographically explained. The number of 378 Roma,
who were counted in Belgrade in 1948, increased by over 50 times until 2002. A
relatively small number of registered Roma in Belgrade in the first post-war census
was probably caused by the situation of the Roma in Belgrade during World War II,
as well as by the nature of the census in 1948, the priority of which was not the
establishment of the precise ethnic composition (Knežević 2010, 2011, 2011a). The
largest fluctuation in the number of the declared Roma in Belgrade occurred in
1961. According to the 1961 census, 9,826 Roma lived in Serbia, which is about six
times fewer than in 1953, when 58,800 Roma were counted. Unfortunately, no data
on the number of Roma in Belgrade in 1953 was published, so it is not possible to
determine the decrease in the number of Roma in Belgrade. Since 1961, the number
of Roma in Belgrade kept increasing. In the period 1961–1971, the number of the
declared Roma increased by exactly 18 times, from 186 inhabitants to 3,348, while
at the same time their number in Serbia increased by about 5 times (growth index
was 507.8). Massive relabeling of the Roma was probably caused by social progress
in Serbia, and by the beginning of emancipation and integration of Roma into the
Serbian society. The share of Roma in Belgrade in relation to the total number in
Belgrade Slums
69
Serbia in 1971 amounted to 6.7%, which is about 3.5 times higher than in 1961, so
we could say that in this period, Belgrade, also for Roma, became a significant
gravitational zone. That same year, the share of the Roma population in the total
population of Belgrade was only 0.28%.
Table 3. The share of the Roma in the total number of inhabitants of Belgrade 1948–2002
1948 1953
*
1961 1971 1981 1991 2002
Belgrade 634,003 731,837 942,190 1,209,360 1,470,073 1,602,226 1,576,124
Share of Roma (%) 0.06 / 0.02 0.3 0.6 0.9 1.2
*
Data on the number of the Roma in Belgrade 1953 was not published.
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia, 1948–2002.
Since 1971, the number of Roma in Belgrade has continued to grow, but this
increase is mainly explained by changing attitudes in the declaration. Thus, in the
period 1971–1981 their number nearly tripled (growth index was 271.4), from
3,348 to 9,086, while on the level of Serbia it doubled (growth index in the
number of the declared Roma in Serbia was 222.4). This is the highest increase in
their number between 1961 and 2002. The share of Roma in Belgrade in the total
number of Roma in Serbia in 1981 was 8.2%, which confirms the further
strengthening of the gravitational influence of Belgrade to the Roma during the
entire post-war period. The share of the Roma population in Belgrade that year
was 0.62%. According to the 1991 census, there were 14,220 declared Roma in
Belgrade, which is an increase of 56.5% compared to their number in 1981. For
Serbia, at the same interval, the number of the declared Roma increased by 25%.
The share of the Roma in Belgrade in relation to the total number in Serbia was
still increasing in 1991, and it accounted to 10.3%, and the share of the Roma
population in Belgrade, also increased in comparison to 1981, and amounted to
0.9%. The results of the 2002 census show an increase in the number of the
declared Roma in Belgrade from 4,520 people or 35% compared to 1991. The
share of Roma in Belgrade in relation to the total number of the declared Roma in
Serbia in 2002 of 17.7% showed a significant increase (more than 70%) compared
to 1991, and it can be explained by the influx of internally displaced Roma from
Kosovo, continuing the trend of migration of Roma from Central Serbia and
Voivodina, and high population growth. The share of the Roma population in
Belgrade in 2002 also increased and amounted to 1.2%. The explanation for this
increase should be sought in the relative numerical stagnation of the total
population of Belgrade in the last intercensal period, and in a continued migration
of Roma to Belgrade.
The share of the declared Roma in Belgrade between 1948 and 2002 kept
increasing (0.7–17.7%), indicating that Belgrade grew stronger as the gravitational
zone for the Roma in Serbia.
Dejan Šabić et al.
70
Table 4. Absolute growth, average annual growth, growth index and average annual growth
rate of the number of the declared Roma in Belgrade 1961–2002
1961–1971 1971–1981 1981–1991 1991–2002 1961–2002
Absolute growth 3,162 5,738 5,134 4,520 19,005
Average annual growth 316.2 573.8 513.4 452 463.5
Average annual growth rate 179.0 92.0 44.0 27.0 48.0
Growth index 1,800.0 271.4 156.5 135.0 10,317.7
*
Data on the number of the Roma in Belgrade 1953 was not published.
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia, 1961–2002.
We can observe the growth trend in the share of Roma in Belgrade population
from only 0.06% in 1948 to 1.2% in 2002.
According to the 2002 census, the Roma in Belgrade are present in all 16
municipalities, mostly in the municipality of Zemun, where there are 4,952 or
25.8% of the total number of Roma in Belgrade. That is followed by Palilula with
3,897 Roma (20.3% of the total number of Roma in Belgrade), Novi Beograd,
with the number of 2,371 declared Roma (12.3% of the total number of Roma in
Belgrade) and Čukarica where 1,993 Roma live (10.4% of the total Roma in
Belgrade). This means that 13,213 Roma live in the four municipalities, which is
more than two thirds of the total number of the declared Roma in Belgrade. The
remaining one third of Roma are located in the other municipalities of Belgrade.
The increased urbanization of Belgrade, fleeing from the poor smaller urban
areas in search of a better life and future, and displacement of the population
mostly from Kosovo in 1999 (Vujadinović et al. 2011), have brought many Roma
to Belgrade. They had no money to buy or rent an apartment, so they were forced
to build temporary makeshift objects in the existing slums or at new locations.
The main problems of Belgrade slums are: poverty of the population, social
exclusion in relation to the local community, spatial exclusion (residential segrega-
tion), unplanned construction, underdeveloped infrastructure, poor sanitation,
illiteracy of the population, neighbours’ mistrust and prejudices against the
population of the slums.
Poverty of the population has been the problem of the Belgrade slums since
their creation. The economic and political system during the second half of the
20th century did not significantly contribute to improving the lives of the poorest
population from the slums, and modest projects aimed at reducing poverty were
not initiated until the beginning of the 21st century, i.e. with the political changes,
as well as the economic recovery of the country and greater inflow of foreign
direct investment in Serbia (see Šabić et al. 2012).
According to UNICEF (2007), the poor and socially excluded children,
particularly those from the slums, have not found their place in the official
statistics and data of the Republic of Serbia.
Belgrade Slums
71
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia, 1961–2002.
Figure 6. Trends in the number of the declared Roma in Belgrade by municipalities 1961 and 2002.
The internally displaced Roma from Kosovo live in a particularly difficult
situation, in extreme poverty (Jakšić 2000, 2002), and so do the Ashkali and
Egyptians. Arrival in Belgrade did not solve the problem of poverty; the poor
became part of the urban poor. Many of them came to Belgrade without identity
documents. In Serbia, without personal documents one cannot apply for social
welfare or child benefit, which is not large and amounts to 12–13 euros per child
per month. But for a child benefit, as well as for the other types of financial
Dejan Šabić et al.
72
assistance from the state, they must provide 15–16 documents, which are difficult
to obtain for them. A large number of families from the slums, aware of the whole
procedure, just give up on welfare. For example, a large number of the Roma,
Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo had never been registered. Consequently, they
never had identity documents in Kosovo, and they do not have them in Belgrade
either. When they came, if they were not in the collective centre but in a slum they
did not have a registered address. Without a registered address they could not get
any personal documents. Without an ID card they cannot work. And in order to
obtain identity cards they must go to their place of birth, and find two adult wit-
nesses there who can confirm their identity. Whatever happens, any help, anything
at all, goes past the slum population of immigrants from Kosovo. Without identity
documents, they do not officially exist, and their children cannot enrol in a school.
They cannot get any help, not even from non-governmental humanitarian organiza-
tions, because these people with no documents are not in the lists of the displaced
and therefore have no legitimacy.
Although in 2000 the Commissariat for Refugees of Serbia, in cooperation with
UNHCR, organized a registration of internally displaced persons, among whom
there were 19,000 Roma from Kosovo, 39% of Roma in Serbia did not possess a
single official Serbian document. UNHCR later investigated this problem and
found that the Roma did not consider that obtaining personal documents would be
of any use and they complained about the system only when some urgent needs
arose.
Primarily because of the poverty, the people of Belgrade slums are charac-
terized by social exclusion in relation to the local community, on the one hand,
and cohesion of the slums population, on the other. A slum is a kind of a
community, or more families that stick together and keep their traditions.
Although from the viewpoint of the local communities, a slum looks like a chaotic
set of cottages, it is not really so. A slum is actually a place of hope, where
difficulties have created a strong social cohesion and where a traditional culture
survives. In such surroundings each individual has their place and role. There are
families that prefer living in the slums to living in apartments because they do not
have the same social life.
The spatial exclusion (residential segregation) from the urban area of the city is
an important feature of slums. It is a result of years of marginalization of the Roma.
No country in the world is an exception to the existence of such settlements. They
are the ‘invisible part of the city’, often spatially excluded from official maps and
documents and usually physically hidden from the eyes of tourists and foreign
visitors behind the colourful facades of the local authorities. Much research since the
mid-1990s has been focused on socio-ethnic processes of ethnic and residential
segregation when the capitals of SEE countries register as destinations of migrants
(Anthias and Lazaridis 2000, Arbaci 2007, Leal 2004, Malheiros 2002, Malheiros
and Vala 2004, Maloutas 2004, 2007, Petsimeris 1998 etc).
Belgrade Slums
73
Figure 7. Roma barracks in Novi Beograd slum.
According to the field results, 95% of slums in Belgrade were built by
unplanned construction, and only about 5% around the planned core. All slums in
Belgrade were built in the zones prohibited for construction or in construction zones
that were intended for the construction of other facilities. Although construction at
several locations in Belgrade was allowed, the owners of buildings did not have the
necessary zoning, building and technical licenses. They live in a kind of non-places,
often with a sense of humiliation. In addition, they cannot even try to improve the
housing conditions, because they are constantly under a threat of eviction.
The worst living conditions are in the slums with huts or sheds, built on a
wasteland which is either state-owned or near landfill sites. Houses which the
slum residents call ‘barracks’, were mostly built by people who live in them, and
they can also be bought as assembly houses from the other slum residents for 50–
200 euros. Most have at least two rooms, with an additional hall for shoes and
water containers.
Belgrade slums are characterized by an underdeveloped infrastructure. The
residential objects were built spontaneously from improvised materials such as
adobe, mud, nylon, cardboard, tin sheets or wooden boards. If there are municipal
services, water supply, sewerage and electricity networks at the locations, they are
used without the necessary permits (often illegally connected households). As a
rule, there are no sewer system, regulated and paved streets or related facilities.
Dejan Šabić et al.
74
Figure 8. A slum in Novi Beograd.
For almost all the slums it is typical that they have a good access to major
streets, but the streets inside a slum are not paved. Up to 5% of the slum
inhabitants have no electricity. Families generally use water from public taps
because they have no water in residential units. Belgrade slums have no sanitation.
The slum residents often drill pipe tap water to get drinking water.
Poor hygienic conditions are typical of all Belgrade slums. In many slum
facilities there are no regulated sanitary facilities so the sewage outfall often runs
parallel to the street, which is a major threat to public health. Therefore, frequent
illnesses are a consequence of unhygienic conditions and poor nutrition. Malnutri-
tion of children and high infant mortality are common.
Poverty, discrimination and poor living conditions since childhood imply that
health conditions of most adult residents of slums are significantly lower than the
national average. Official data on morbidity and mortality are not collected by
ethnicity, and there is very little research that could give an accurate picture about
the health of Roma at the national level. Low and irregular wages compel the
slums residents to fight constantly for minimum money required for food and
basic necessities. All this, combined with low education levels, results in a
reduced ability to stimulate their children adequately in their early development.
Difficult living and housing conditions further undermine the situation the children
are in and lead to even greater discrimination and segregation.
Illiteracy and poor education structure of the slums population are extremely
high. There are not many people who have completed elementary school. Both in
the past and nowadays, the children from Roma families in Belgrade, but also in
Belgrade Slums
75
entire Serbia hardly succeed in completing elementary school – only every third
child. Due to the consecutive repetition of grades and inability to follow lessons, a
significant number of the Roma children are transferred to schools for children with
special educational needs. Until twenty years ago, this category included children
with physical, intellectual, emotional, or sensory impairments, and nowadays, this
category includes all children who for whatever reason cannot attend regular
schools. According to the current UNESCO definition, the category of children
with special educational needs, among others, includes all those children who
occasionally or continually experience difficulties in school, children who lack
interest and motivation for learning, children who repeat grades, children who are
forced to work and children living on the streets, children who live far from school,
children who live in the conditions of severe poverty and suffer from chronic
malnutrition, and children who do not attend school for any other reasons (Macura
2000). According to most of these parameters, the largest number of the Roma
children in Belgrade belong to this category, so the Roma, by the criterion of
education, are a phenomenon because the special schools are being turned into
institutions for education of children who mostly belong to the Roma ethnic
community, which has serious implications for education and social status of the
Roma, but for the school system in the country as well. Such educational chaos in
the Roma population is contributed equally by two factors: first is the economic
misery and partly a rooted belief of the Roma that they do not need schools, and the
other factor is the massive, outdated, bureaucratic and inefficient state apparatus,
which is often unable even to recognize the problem, let alone solve it. Education of
the Roma is a vicious circle of civilization norms and the economic weakness of this
ethnic community, which leads to the educational structure of the Roma population
as a statistical indicator of their educational inferiority compared to other ethnic
communities in Serbia.
Literacy and educational attainment are the educational characteristics of the
population covered by the census.
The question of literacy in Serbian censuses is standard and especially
important in the study of the Roma because, according to the 2002 census, they are
the ethnic group with a share of 19.65% in the illiterate population in Serbia aged
10 and above. This puts them in the first position in the range of ethnic
communities by a share in the illiterate (the Ashkali are in the second position with
10.55% – who are also frequent inhabitants of the slums, Vlachs – 10.52%,
Egyptians – 8.81%, Albanians – 7.70%, Turks – 5.49%, Bulgarians – 5.45%,
while the share of the illiterate in other ethnic communities does not exceed 5%).
According to 2002 census, the number of illiterate Roma aged 10 or above was
2,426 in Belgrade, or 16.7% of the total number of Roma in Belgrade aged 10 or
above. Gender structure of the illiterate Roma in Belgrade shows that nearly one in
four Roma women in Belgrade is illiterate (24.4%), and that every eleventh
Belgrade Roma man is illiterate (8.9%).
Dejan Šabić et al.
76
Table 5. Illiterate Roma in Belgrade aged 10 and above by gender in 2002
illiterate
total
number %
Male 7,227 644 8.9
Female 7,291 1,782 24.4
14,518
2,426 16.7
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia, 1948–2002.
Statistical data on the education of Roma in Belgrade for the previous census
years are very modest, so we will use the data on the education of Roma in
Yugoslavia in 1961 and 1981, and provide a comparative review of the data on the
literacy of Roma in Serbia and in Belgrade for 2002. According to the 1961 census
data, at the level of Yugoslavia it was a rarity for a Roma child to complete
elementary (0.7%) or secondary school (0.7%). That same year, no members of
the Roma ethnic group who completed college or secondary school were counted.
In 1981, 17.2% of the Roma who completed elementary school were counted,
4.4% completed secondary school, 0.2% completed college, and the share of
university educated Roma in Yugoslavia was 0.1%. In 2002, the number of Roma
in Belgrade older than 15 who had no educational qualifications was 2,729, or
21.7% of the total number of Roma in Belgrade older than 15, which is 3.9% less
compared to the share of the same Roma contingent in Serbia. In 2002, the share
of the population of Serbia with no qualifications in the total number of Serbian
population older than 15 amounted to 5.66%.
The 2002 census showed, according to EMS (2004), that out of 84 Roma in
Serbia who have completed university, 25 or 29.8% live in Belgrade. But despite
an increase in the number of Roma who are university graduates in the 2002
census, compared to the previous period, their share in the total number of Roma
older than 15 is still 0.3% in Serbia, or 0.4% in Belgrade.
Table 6. The Roma in Belgrade aged 15 and above by educational attainment and gender
in 2002
Number %
Educational attainment
total male female total male female
No education 2,729 788 1,941 21.7 12.4 30.7
1–3 years of elementary school 506 198 308 4.0 3.1 4.9
4–7 years of elementary school 2,399 1,049 1,350 19.1 16.6 21.3
Elementary school 5,327 3,063 2,264 42.4 48.4 35.8
Secondary school 1,454 1,029 425 11.6 16.3 6.7
College 31 25 6 0.2 0.4 0.1
University 25 20 5 0.2 0.3 0.1
Unknown 94 66 28 0.7 1.0 0.4
Total 12,565 6,328 6,327 100.0 100.0 100.0
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia, 1948–2002.
Belgrade Slums
77
The survey conducted during the field research of Roma in Belgrade (Knežević
2010) included the question about the highest level of completed education.
According to the results, 34% of Roma completed elementary and 16% secondary
school, while the others have largely incomplete elementary education. However,
a valuable image was obtained from these statistics via casual observations and
interviews, both from the slum children who attend school and their parents, about
the attitudes of the Roma to education and the reasons why the Roma leave school
quickly or do not enter the education system at all. In the majority of the Roma
children who already attend school, the existence of a will to finish school was
observed because they believed it would help them be better off in life. However,
according to the children’s words, the biggest problem they face in education is
not the discrimination by the majority, but primarily the economic inability of
their parents to provide them with the necessary resources for education (books,
teaching aids, and appropriate clothing). Housing problems in the slums should be
added, because they do not provide adequate conditions for their education. This is
especially true for the Roma children who live in the slums such as Tošin Bunar,
Makiš, Obrenovački Put. Most of the parents give poor living conditions as the
primary reason for the children’s failure at school, and as an example, we will
quote a statement from a parent from Tošin Bunar who took part in a survey: “...
how can I send my child to school when his teachers and other children say he’s
dirty and he stinks, and how can he not stink when there is no water even to wash
faces or clothes.” The parents, unlike the children, are convinced that there is a
problem of discrimination in schools by teachers, other children and their parents,
not because they are Roma, but because they are poor. However, when asked
about the reasons of their own failures in education at they time when they were to
be educated, the parents did not say they were discriminated against, but gave
answers such as: my parents did not let me, I got married early, I was poor, school
is no use whatever, and we recorded a response: “And where did you see a Gypsy
go to school”. No respondents said school was difficult for them in terms of under-
standing the school curriculum.
The displaced Roma from Kosovo, who have no identity documents, are unable
to find any jobs and to educate their children. Having arrived in Belgrade, the
Roma families did not send their children to schools (Acković 1993). A child who
does not go to school immediately usually does not enter the educational system
later either. A large number of the Roma children who went to school in Kosovo
after arriving in Belgrade did not continue their education. Those children, who
wanted to continue their education, had to take a year or two years again or to
attend special schools. A lot of children from Kosovo spoke Romani and
Albanian, and eventually learnt the Serbian language – which in turn negatively
affected their inclusion in the school system in Serbia.
From the above-mentioned we can conclude that the Roma in Belgrade are
partly responsible for the educational inferiority, because they still harbour
negative stereotypes about their own success at school and at the same time blame
someone else for that. Another problem is the lack of parental awareness of the
Dejan Šabić et al.
78
need for education today, and of the fact that the Roma children who are educated
are far more likely to achieve better living conditions in the future. Instead, many
Roma children from the slums at the age of two or three are taken to the streets by
their mothers and fathers and taught to beg or at the age of 5–8 taught to collect
secondary raw materials (metal, plastic, cardboard).
According to Jakšić (2002), poverty of the vast majority of Roma is a handicap
both in the formal, i.e. institutional and in the informal system of earning one’s
living. According to him, it is paradoxical but true: they are unemployed because
they are poor and unskilled and they are poor because they are unemployed or they
have worst paid jobs. Then, he says, the circle of their misery is final. Large
landfills near cities and garbage dumps are like the bases of economic activities of
the Roma. This ‘economic link’ cannot be disconnected by the authorities – even
if they had the political will: nor can they relocate the Roma away from the
landfills, nor do the Roma themselves want to move away. It is a survival strategy
or survival as a lifestyle. It is necessary to make it possible for them to do what
they know, can and like to do.
Organized begging is a profitable business for some families in the slums.
There are examples of how parents mistreat the children if they refuse to beg. Of
course, if a younger brother or sister witnesses that bullying, they will not refuse
their parents’ demands so as not to get such treatment. The police does not
Figure 9. Preparations for collecting secondary raw materials, Novi Beograd.
Belgrade Slums
79
Figure 10. Roma child beggars in Novi Beograd.
recognize the term ‘organized begging’, but interprets it as a group of children
who ran away from their parents because of hunger, poor financial situation, living
with alcoholic parents, etc. Those children gather in a few abandoned houses in
Belgrade. They usually have no documents, so they remain outside the education
system and the institutional, social and health care.
It is impossible to assume the exact number of children from Belgrade slums
who beg in the streets, since this phenomenon is specific and there are no records
or methodology for recording it, and there is no agreement of experts on what
children’s begging is. Therefore, there are no planned, designed or appropriate
measures – the ones applied now are focused on the consequences rather than
causes and they are implemented on an ad hoc basis. The existing legal frame-
work, which, on the one hand, recognizes the children who beg as victims of
exploitation, abuse, neglect, on the other hand, criminalizes the same children and
exposes them to the system of repressive measures. Very important recommenda-
tions were made by the Ombudsman that the Serbian Parliament should include
consideration of Rights of the Child on the agenda, because this law introduces the
concept of children as victims, and regulates their legal position.
Many Belgrade residents observe the slums population with mistrust and
prejudice. They believe that slums are a good base for crime, drug addiction,
prostitution, women and children trafficking, alcoholism, high rates of mental and
Dejan Šabić et al.
80
other illnesses. Such an observation of the slum residents causes an even deeper
marginalization of these social groups.
According to Amnesty International (2011), almost all Roma in Serbia have
experienced discrimination, and those living in informal settlements are particularly
more discriminated against. This seriously exceeds the violation of their right to
adequate housing, which affects their other rights, including rights to health, educa-
tion and work.
The historical background of discrimination against the Roma in Serbia, from
global and regional standpoints, means that their communities start as clearly
stigmatized in relation to the other members of the Serbian society. The prejudices
are deeply rooted and significantly affect the perception of the Roma and their
traditions. Taking into account the complexity and importance of discrimination as
a factor in social exclusion, according to UNICEF, a clear distinction should be
made between different aspects of discrimination: 1) Social discrimination –
reflected in the historical legacy of marginalization of ethnic minorities, which is
manifested in poverty, inequality and the existence of prejudice, 2) Institutional
discrimination – authorities systematically avoid respecting the rights of specific
groups in the population, 3) Direct discrimination – even if the public services are
available, socially and culturally deprived people fail to reach them because of the
discrimination of individuals.
5. Discussion on the measures of improving life in Belgrade slums
Based on the results found in this paper, the following measures should be
taken in order to improve life in Belgrade slums.
The first measure is a reduction of poverty of the slum population and their social
and economic integration. These activities should be based on the joint activities of
the local authorities and the slum population. It is particularly important to engage
and empower the specific groups of the local population, especially women and
youth, who should take responsibility for community development.
Hierarchical superiority of individuals is typical for slums, they are controlled
by a number of adults who often prevent the conditions which might improve the
living conditions, they stand in the way of changing the position or independence
of dependent members of the community (women, children, and youth). There-
fore, besides organizing, other conditions for changes in slums to take place are
necessary – planned, financial, institutional and organizational support of the
public sector and civil society organizations.
Effective results in improving the living conditions in slums can be achieved
only if the social capital in these communities is increased as well as the ability of
residents to unite and organize in order to acquire personal and collective well-
being. The condition for this is a radical change of the position of dependent and
suppressed members of the community, especially the fulfilment of human rights
standards, and punishing abuse, child abuse and begging, and so on.
Belgrade Slums
81
A systematic approach to life and work of street children who come from the
slums, including children’s and organized children’s begging, is a condition for
protecting this group of children and for realizing their rights. Adopting a strategy
for the protection of ‘street children’ which would design the measures concerning
children and their families, is the first step in recognizing the problem, its defining
and subsequent planning and implementing measures. Otherwise, further exploita-
tion of children and all the risks and consequences it involves can be expected, as
‘street children’ breed ‘street children’.
Besides eradicating poverty and its consequences, in the planning and manage-
ment processes, and defining measures to improve the living conditions in slums,
some of the principles that should be considered come from the current domestic
and international documents. The slums must be treated as the other parts of
Belgrade. They must not be the ‘invisible part of the city', spatially separated from
the official maps and documents by the local authorities.
According to NSUPR (2008) and FOD (2007), an integrated approach to solv-
ing the housing problems of Belgrade slums involves a use of parallel, coordinated
programs and actions of the local authorities and slums inhabitants in the area of
employment, education and health care. It also includes defining the housing
policy and projects for the improvement of settlements and housing in accordance
with the opinion of the local authorities and the specific slums population through
the preservation of ethnic and cultural identity of the Roma, Ashkali and others.
The improvement of the slums and the living conditions of their inhabitants
should not be seen as maintaining the existing situation, but as a precondition for
their spatial integration, and inclusion of their population in the social system of
Belgrade.
The main goal of spatial integration and inclusion of the slum population in the
social system of the Serbian capital is the provision of basic facilities and equal
access to basic social and other services and infrastructure. This should contribute
to the gradual elimination of the spatial and social segregation. According to
NSUPR (2008), improving the quality of housing in the slums involves: improving
the existing housing units and construction of new ones, improvement and
construction of infrastructure, supporting through education of the population,
employment and work engagement, providing health care and social assistance,
joint planning and implementation of activities related to the gradual development
of the whole surroundings, effective cooperation between the Roma and the
general population, and changing the stereotypical behaviour of both.
Implementation of these measures and activities is an essential prerequisite for
improving the miserable housing situation in Belgrade slums.
According to FOD (2007), during the initial stages of this process, it is possible
to find solutions that will be consistent with the financial capabilities of local
communities. It is essential that the local governments have planned funds for the
promotion and legalization of housing in the slums in their budgets as permanent
items. Local governments and communities in the slums need to consider the real
financial capacity of the Roma to participate in improving their own housing. It is
Dejan Šabić et al.
82
necessary to prepare urban development plans for parts of Belgrade where the
slums are, if such documents exist. It is important that these plans adequately treat
the problem of the slums in terms of respect for the principle of non-discrimina-
tion and non-segregation.
In cases where the legalization of the existing settlements is not possible, the
competent authorities should, through a dialogue between all the participants, find
solutions for the relocation or displacement which would be acceptable for all the
parties, with the involvement of the slum residents in the programs of social sup-
port and protection which they are entitled to as citizens. In cases when a relatively
simple and fast legalization is possible, programs to improve settlement and
integration of their population in the wider community should be simultaneously
initiated. In settlements where the proprietary status of the land is regulated,
projects to improve the living conditions should be initiated, such as: legalization
of individual houses, improving housing conditions through building social apart-
ments, self-construction and providing loans, construction of basic infrastructure
and others.
6. Conclusion
Measures to improve the living conditions in Belgrade slums can be grouped
into two models: 1) keeping and improving the slums that meet the minimum
standards of quality of life, and 2) construction of new accommodation facilities in
other settlements.
Our research has shown that the slums in Belgrade are numerous, dispersed,
heterogeneous in structure, size and type, and there are certain peculiarities in this
regard. If you are looking for a common denominator to express the typical
condition in them, then it is definitely poverty. From the standpoint of integration
of the slumpopulation, the problem of poverty is one of the most important social
problems. It is true that some social groups in Serbia have similar problems:
refugees and displaced persons, the unemployed or people who have been made
redundant. What separates the Roma and other slum inhabitants is the primary
threat to the group posed by permanent poverty. It is a socially, economically and
politically weak social group that cannot overcome the situation without the
support of the community. Besides employment and economic empowerment, the
housing conditions in the slums are the biggest issue. The majority of Belgrade
population is willing to accept an appropriate institutional support program for
improving the situation of the slum population, particularly the Roma. If such a
program is conceived, we should certainly take care of people living in the slums
whose basic needs are not significantly different from the needs of an average
Serbian family. The biggest difference between them lies in the problems they face
and the opportunities to solve them. The problem of housing cannot be resolved by
arranging slums, their displacement or eradication, but with an institutional, well
planned, well coordinated and comprehensive action program, which involves the
Belgrade Slums
83
use of measures of economic, social, educational, urban planning, health, environ-
mental and other policies.
The main objective of integration of the slums is to provide necessary facilities
such as access to basic public services and infrastructure. This could help reduce
poverty, gradually eliminate social segregation and modify some of the negative
stereotypes about Roma.
Acknowledgments
The paper resulted from work on the projects (176008) financially supported
by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Serbia between 2011
and 2015.
Addresses:
Dejan Šabić
Faculty of Geography
University of Belgrade
Studentski trg 3/3
11000 Belgrade, Serbia
E-mail: dejansabic@yahoo.com
Aleksandar Knežević
E-mail: knezevic@gef.bg.ac.rs
Snežana Vujadinović
E-mail: vujadinovicsnezana@gmail.com
Rajko Golić
E-mail: rajkogolic@gmail.com
Miroljub Milinčić
E-mail: mikan@gef.bg.ac.rs
Marko Joksimović
E-mail: dell_mare@yahoo.com
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As is the case in many European countries, the Gypsies of Turkey are currently unrecognised and misjudged by society. Victims of misunderstandings, discrimination in all areas (particularly socio-cultural and educational), they present a very negative image in the collective imagination. In addition, it is difficult to deal in any depth with the problems facing ethno-linguistic minorities in Turkey because there are only vague statistical estimates concerning their populations, since they are not officially recognised, given that the aim of Turkish cultural policy is assimilation, pure and simple. In order to join the EU Turkey will undoubtedly have to make an effort in certain areas, such as those connected with its socio-economic, cultural and educational level, the problem of Kurds and other minorities, and the issue of democracy and human rights.