Discrimination

Monday, 15 July 2019

Praxis Holds Training on Anti-discrimination Law for Social Workers and Municipal Trustees

In June 2019, Praxis participated in a series of training courses delivered as part of the project "Support to Local Integration of Extremely Vulnerable IDPs, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Serbia", implemented by Amity in partnership with UNHCR and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs. The training courses were held in Leskovac, Smederevo, Niš and Kraljevo for social welfare centre professionals and trustees of the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, with the aim of expanding their knowledge of anti-discrimination regulations relevant for work with refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers in Serbia.

The training concept, prepared and implemented by Marija Dražović from Praxis, included information about the legal and institutional framework, including the sources of international law and good practice, as well as domestic legislation. Given the complexity of the notion of discrimination, as well as the richness and diversity of the norms governing the protection of the right to equality, the presentation is based on a comprehensive approach to the problem of discrimination, with particular reference to the protection of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers. In addition, the participants were informed about the mechanisms available to protect the rights to equality and the shortcomings identified through the analysis of the compliance of domestic framework with international obligations and good practice as well as the shortcomings emerging in practice. However, the presentation focused mainly on the problems regarding the implementation of the existing framework and the possibilities and recommendations for improving the implementation. One part of the training was dedicated to the problem of non-transparent and non-inclusive approach in the process of policy development and adoption, with a particular focus on local policies and the consequences of this approach in their later implementation.

After the training, it was concluded that the level of awareness about anti-discrimination regulations was very low among employees in the concerned institutions, which was certainly due to the complexity of the Serbian legal framework for equality but also the insufficient commitment of the state to creating and implementing public awareness campaigns on this issue. This also involves that the state should assume the responsibility for enhancing institutional knowledge about anti-discrimination and preserving the acquired knowledge among service providers employed by the institutions. Most participants who attended the workshops pointed out that they had never undergone similar training or received any other form of anti-discrimination education. Considering that the participants were actually the officials who conducted the procedures concerning the rights of the most vulnerable citizens, it can be assumed that the risk of misapplication of regulations and violation of citizens' rights is very high. Some participants did not refrain from presenting discriminatory attitudes towards the members of certain vulnerable groups, especially Roma. They believed that the affirmative action system had provided Roma with more opportunities in terms of accessing rights. Some of them also believed that Roma were prone to abuse their rights and that little could be done to improve their situation because their lifestyle was directly influenced by their tradition and habits. In addition to this, numerous other highly biased opinions and views were expressed. The expression of such views was a reason for opening a discussion to present appropriate and generally accepted arguments about the dangers and harmfulness of stereotypes and to point out, through the most common examples of practice, that stereotypes were the basis of discrimination and led to serious violations of rights, especially when this was done by civil servants.

The participants were reminded that it was first necessary to recognise discrimination as a social problem in order to combat it effectively. In fact, discrimination is the responsibility of every individual and of the whole society, and therefore, it is extremely important that everyone should direct efforts to eradicate or supress this harmful phenomenon.

The training courses were very useful as they raised the issue of knowledge of the concept, framework and practice in this area and indicated that there was considerable room for improvement of the situation of vulnerable groups exposed to discrimination on an almost daily basis. The role of employees in the institutions that provided services to citizens on a daily basis in eradicating and combating discrimination was particularly discussed. This is especially important taking into account that citizens are highly exposed to discrimination in the area of service delivery in procedures before public administration bodies, which is a particularly difficult form of discrimination, defined by law. 

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action