Wednesday, 23 December 2015

35th Sitting of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction

At the sitting held on 23 December, the members of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction discussed, in principle, the Bill amending the Law on Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities.

Vladimir Pesic, Assistant Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs responsible for disabilities protection, presented the reasons for the amendments to the Law which concern prevention of discrimination and the exercise of the right of persons with disabilities. Namely, according to the Bill state authorities are obliged to enable persons with body or sensory impairments to sign documents using stamps or facsimiles.

It was stressed that the Bill rounds up the legal framework for the prevention of discrimination against persons with disabilities and enables their total inclusion.

Following a debate the Committee members accepted the Bill in principle, by majority vote.

The sitting was also dedicated to the current situation regarding asylum-seekers’ welfare.

On the behalf of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, Dragana Savic briefed the Committee members on the situation in the past month. She said that the housing capacities of the centre in Presevo had been expanded, the influx of migrants holds steady at 3,000 to 4,000 people a day who arrive in Serbia and move toward the Croatian border, adding that, besides Macedonia, a new route was noted, through Bulgaria. The current capacity can receive 6,000 people a day, and the German bank for reconstruction and development wishes to donate funds to expand these, a point currently being negotiated, stressed Savic.

On the behalf of the Ministry of Interior, Jelena Vasiljevic of the border police briefed the Committee members on the Ministry’s activities concerning the registration of migrants and asylum-seekers. Amendments to the current Law on Asylum to prevent the abuse of the asylum system are in the works and are expected to be passed in March 2016. The Ministry is maintaining security along the state borders and providing training for the people working in the reception centres to prevent the smuggling of migrants through Serbian territory.

Deputy Ombudsman Milos Jankovic spoke about how to define the people migrating through Serbia and registering here. He stressed that the Ombudsman continues to visit the areas where the refugees transiting through Serbia are housed and informed the Committee about their transit route through the Balkans. Finally, Jankovic concluded that the situation caused by the massive influx of transiting refugees requires a clear crisis management system and their status needs to be defined so that they should not be registered as asylum-seekers because they are not.

Representatives of the Commissariat for Refugees, UNHCR, Red Cross and the non-governmental sector also spoke about the migrant situation.

The discussion touched on the possible organisation of transport of the refugees and asylum-seekers by train from Tabanovce to Presevo, the abuse of the asylum system, affidavits issued by the Serbian authorities enabling the migrants to transit, the authority of the state bodies in the field and their coordination, various abuses in the field, financial assistance and donations to Serbia, UNHCR support in the field, fenced-off borders in the region, worsening health of the migrants, instances of discrimination against them, etc. One of the conclusions was that additional efforts need to be invested into acquiring a train to facilitate the transport of the migrants. The participants of the debate also commended the state’s efforts on resolving the migrant crisis and the support of UNHCR in the field, especially its support for the vulnerable migrant categories i.e. women and children. Women migrants, their exploitation and abuse on the way to the EU countries, should be the focus of attention in the next year.

The end of the sitting was dedicated to civic petitions and proposals. The Committee’s Working Group had reviewed the civic petitions and proposals that the Committee had received in the previous period, and the Committee members unanimously accepted the Working Group’s report.

The sitting was attended by Committee members and deputy members Branko Djurovic, Annamaria Vicsek, Aleksandar Peranovic, Slobodan Gvozdenovic, Ljiljana Beronja, Nadica Nikolic Tanasijevic, Milanka Jevtovic Vukojicic, Milena Corilic and Mujo Mukovic.

The first half of the sitting was chaired by Committee Deputy Chairperson Mirjana Dragas, and the second by Committee Chairperson Dr Vesna Rakonjac.

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