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HWA support to Roma Decade 2005-2015

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Between 25,000 and 30,000 Roma are estimated to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina according to recent research. 19,500 persons or 4,500 households require some type of assistance described in the Strategy and Action Plan. Other estimates consider that Roma population in Bosnia and Herzegovina could be estimated to 76,000 persons or 2% of the total population. More detailed information regarding the housing situation of Roma can be found in chapter 3.4.

Problems identified in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 2004 ERRC reported that several years after the warring parties had ratified the Dayton Peace Agreement (Nov. 1995) that provided for the return of refugees into the country, many Roma families who had returned to Bosnia from Western Europe still did not have access to their pre-war homes which were occupied or destroyed. Many of these families were temporarily placed in unauthorised and substandard locations or settlements with no water supply or sanitary infrastructure.

It was repeatedly said that the substandard housing conditions of Roma negatively affect their access to education and employment, as well as access to healthcare institutions and generally prompt deterioration in the health of people living in these settlements, hence the priority given to housing by the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Remaining challenges identified during the implementation of Roma housing projects include:

  • The process of legalisation of illegally constructed buildings;
  • Housing projects for homeless and refugees/returnees;
  • The lack of direct resources of Roma beneficiaries; as a consequence, families are not sufficiently involved in the re/construction and maintenance bills are a problem for certain Roma families. Beneficiaries of projects are expected to contribute a minimum.

The need for capacity-building for Roma communities and certain municipalities in order to have them fully contributing in the implementation and monitoring of projects

Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Decade of Roma Inclusion on 4 September 2008. The following year started the implementation of the Action Plan on Roma Housing adopted in July 2008.

The Roma Decade Housing Action Plan[1] includes the following three main objectives:

  • The urban development of Roma settlement (settlements inhabited by Roma) and legalisation of individual housing buildings;
  • Training and raising awareness of Roma and society at large about housing legislation and pertinent issues, Romani culture, etc.;
  • Planning and construction of new housing buildings through social, donor and credit programmes

During the conflict each of the ethnic groups established their own administrations that among other things, administered 'abandoned' property. Legislation was enacted in all areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina that deprived individuals of their property and allocated such property to other individuals on either a temporary or permanent basis. Property was supposed to be allocated to individuals with humanitarian needs, but often was not done so[2].

In 2009 HWA performed the Study “Assessment of needs for social housing in Bosnia and Herzegovina” under a contract with the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees.

The purpose of the research was to obtain information on total social housing needs in Bosnia and Herzegovina covering 12 most vulnerable categories by gender and age. The research included families with unsolved housing problem and excluded persons with temporary right to stay in the municipalities (displaced persons and refugees).

A total of 119 municipalities (84.4%) answered the survey. The analysis of the results showed that 28,322 households were in need for social housing, i.e. more than 53,000 persons. 77% of these households were living in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), whilst 23% were living in Republika Srpska (RS).

The categories of beneficiaries included in the survey and the number of households concerned were the following:

  1. Households with extremely low incomes (below poverty line) – 8,182 households;
  2. Households of minority groups (except for Roma) – 88 households;
  3. Roma households – 1,391 households (see below);
  4. Families of killed war veterans – 4,583 households;
  5. Households with disabled persons (except for the civil victims of war) – 8,659 households;
  6. Households with the civil victims of war – 2,597 households;
  7. Households of single parents – 968 households;
  8. Households with under-aged children without parental care – 336 households;
  9. Households placed in collective centres (except for the displaced persons) – 395 households;
  10. Households placed in temporary accommodation – 553 households;
  11. Persons living in improvised accommodations (containers, sheds, garages) – 359 households;
  12. Homeless people (people without shelters of any kind) – 219 households.

1,256 households in the whole country were considered as most vulnerable as they belonged to two and more of the abovementioned categories. 1,391 were Roma families (i.e. 5.968 persons). This included 1,079 Roma families in 31 municipalities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), and 312 Roma families in eight municipalities of Republika Srpska (RS).

As regards the housing project for Roma for the year 2009, the total project costs – for a duration of 18 months - amounted to 2,336,300 KM. The Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees covered 1,553,000 KM (66% of total costs), whilst HWA, municipality and other ministries jointly covered 783,700 KM (34% of total costs).

Direct beneficiaries included Roma families who were residents in targeted municipalities and who had not solved their housing problem and/or lived in inhabitable housing units. The total number of Roma beneficiaries was 70 families (about 400 persons) from the municipalities of Zenica (16 families), Kiseljak (15 families), Jajce (19 families) and Bijeljina (20 families).

Example of the project in Zenica (social housing for Roma): the 16 Roma families (75 persons) who benefited from the project were living in collective centres and used to live – before the war –in now fully damaged barracks belonging to Željezara (Kasine and Blatuši). They were granted to right to use the flats for the period of five years. Families must pay the rent, maintenance and utilities and are obliged to send their children to school regularly. Every five years their status and right for social housing is re-examined.

As regards the housing project for Roma for the year 2010, the total project costs – for a duration of 12 months and for two municipalities (Tuzla and Banovići) - amounted to 752,000 KM (600.000 KM covered by MHRR and 152,000 KM covered by HWA/municipality/other ministries).

Direct beneficiaries were Roma families who were residents in the two targeted municipalities and who did not have solved housing issue and/or lived in inhabitable housing units.

The total number of Roma beneficiaries was 28 families (about 100 persons), i.e. 15 families in Tuzla and 13 families in Banovići.


In all key phases (beneficiaries’ selection, best contractor, technical inspection, over-handing and technical acceptance of works) all relevant actors were involved, i.e.:

  • partner municipalities (and their departments for social work);
  • Roma representatives;
  • involved ministries (MHRR and FMROI);
  • HWA.

Tender procedures were prepared in accordance with the Law on Public Procurement of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The selection of beneficiaries was done on the basis of a public call in accordance to pre-established criteria by the Committee for the Selection of Beneficiaries (CSB).

Use of alternative methodology in case of eventual non-cooperation and/or avoidance of fulfilment of obligation by other project stakeholders;


Results of the projects housing for Roma 2009/2010



Planned number of housing units


Kiseljak, settlement Hrastovi



Jajce, settlement Skela, Kuprešani



Zenica, settlement Brist - social housing



Bijeljina, RS


24 + infrastructure


76 housing units and 5 septic tanks (out of 70 planned) were totally built or reconstructed. The building/reconstruction of 28 housing units inTuzla and Banovići is under progress.

Problems identified during this project during the selection process of beneficiaries:

  • in one municipality, there was a lack of co-operation and a lack of mutual respect among Roma associations and their representatives;
  • there was sometimes selective information about the public call distributed to potential beneficiaries;
  • there was a need for additional check regarding socially vulnerable families due to incorrect information given by representatives so as to ensure that project conditions were respected;

Problems identified during this project as regards standards and project knowledge:

  • there has been sometimes disinformation due to lack of knowledge about the project goals, conditions and procedures; e.g. illegal housing units could not be part of the project;
  • housing expectations were sometimes too high. Project standards means creation of minimum unified standards for living in accordance to the document “Minimum housing conditions for reconstruction and construction of housing units for returnees” published by the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees.

HWA recommendations:

  • Keep the positive practice and transparent work of the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees HRR with the use of public call for projects;
  • Offer solutions for the most socially vulnerable Roma families (homeless), with the use of social housing models;
  • Additionally strengthen local capacities and educate governmental and non-governmental sector (Roma associations) in Project Cycle Management (PCM), public procurement procedures and tender procedures;
  • Initiate and follow-up the process of legalisation of houses in municipalities;
  • Involve all stakeholders in both the project implementation and, even more important, in the selection of project beneficiaries;
  • Include various levels of local authorities in the project co-funding;
  • Create integrated projects: reconstruction of houses, infrastructure, sustainability and local capacities building.


HWA continue to support Roma population through new EC and MHRR projects in 2012-2013-2014.

[2] See “The Right to Housing and Property Restitution in Bosnia and Herzegovina: a case study” by Paul Prettitore (2003).


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