Montenegro: The money came and went - and Romani families are still unhoused
Biljana Alković, Executive Director of the Roma Scholarship Foundation and a member of the Montenegrin Government's commission for monitoring the implementation of its Romani strategy program, has published an open letter stating that the situation of Romani people in Montenegro, including refugees from the 1990s war, is not improving. Alković says the implementation of the country's Romani inclusion strategy is being performed irresponsibly and is uncontrolled, as there is a complete absence of monitoring mechanisms in place: "Only a few weeks ago, five and a half years after the Decade of Roma Inclusion began, did Romani people and their inclusion acquire authentic, transparent representation in the government."
Alković illustrates the state of the inclusion program by giving examples from the field of housing. In the villages of Niksic, Berane and Bijelo Polje, homes for Romani families were to have been built by the end of last November. Half a million euro was disbursed from the government's budget for the Roma Decade for this construction. However, as of today not one of these families has yet been moved into one of those homes.
The Deputy Human Rights Minister provided the local municipalities with additional time to complete the buildings, but Alković says that new deadline expired at the start of June. The villages were once again given another chance to finish the work, this time without any new deadlines established.
"We are pushing for the contracts signed between the local representatives and the ministry to be respected. For the time being, however, our efforts have shown no results," Alković writes in the open letter, which was sent to the Montenegrin Human Rights Minister.
Montenegro is among the poorest countries in Europe and the United Nations Development Program has been operating in the region for almost 10 years. The country became an independent republic in 2006 when its citizens voted in a referendum to separate from Serbia.
According to nonprofit organizations' estimates, as many as 20 000 Romani people live in the country. Montenegro has been a member of the Decade of Roma Inclusion since 2005 in order to better conduct and manage its Romani integration policy. However, in the past it has faced criticism over its government's minimal willingness to collaborate with non-governmental organizations on addressing this issue. Reports of the Decade Watch Team (2007) indicate that the government intends to finance 80 % of the Romani inclusion programs not from its own resources, but from donors' monies - which does not seem very realistic at a time of protracted economic crisis.