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Minister announces legislative changes for Roma by year's end

Brežice, 16 September - Calls to increase inclusion of Roma children in education and calls to social services, police and prosecution to address violations and offences also when it comes to Roma were heard at a discussion the Brežice municipality, east, hosted Thursday. Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said new legislation could be drafted by the end of the year.

Locals from two towns in the municipality in the region of Dolenjska highlighted recent thefts, loud music being played at night and problems at their primary school, attributing them to two Roma families which have moved there.

The locals' attempts to engage in dialogue with them have failed, so they expect the social work centre to see how they spend social benefits.

They also want the police and judiciary to consistently carry out all criminal investigations and court proceedings, said the locals' representative Fredi Žibert.

Srečko Medic from Brežice police explained that police cannot punish the perpetrators when those who complain about an offence want to remain unanimous and would not file a formal report.

Prosecutor Mateja Roguljič rejected the allegation that the Roma are not prosecuted because "it does not pay off".

She said that every single complaint is processed, but the problem is a very high standard of proof for prosecution and sentencing.

Brežice Mayor Ivan Molan thus urged locals to consistently report all offences or crime and to cooperate with the prosecution.

Minister Hojs and Mayor Molan agreed a low education level of members of the Roma community was a problem, so they called for enhancing efforts in this respect.

Hojs said that if nothing else worked, the Roma parents should have social benefits lowered if they failed to send their children to school.

According to Social Work Centre head Marina Novak Rabzelj, parents should have their social benefits lowered also if they do not attend activities for parents at school which the social work centre deems good for their integration.

Primary school head teacher Maja Matrić said a major issue is Roma children hardly understanding the Slovenian language, so they should be better integrated into pre-school education.

Aleš Ojsteršek from the Education Ministry welcomed the initiative, adding the ministry had a number of programmes designed to increase the inclusion of the Roma in the education system.

Efforts to encourage more Roma to attend school were also welcomed by a representative of the Roma community, while Hojs said a special task force would draft a report on the challenges by the end of the month and then the ministry would draft proposals of legislative changes which he said could be passed in parliament in early 2022.

© STA, 2021