By Adnan Prekic – Podgorica
Summer tourist season on the coast of Montenegro besides a large number of tourists is also an important destination for beggars. Although there are no official data, police suspects that the chain of begging is usually very well organized. Mostly beggars are children who come from all parts of Montenegro and the region. The fact that this is an organized chain of begging is best illustrated by the fact that beggars do not want to accept food or clothes but only money. The state has not developed a clear strategy on the matter and apart from reports from offices of human rights and freedoms there are not any official statistics on the scope and problems of begging in Montenegro.
During the tourist season Montenegrin coast becomes one of the most important places for beggars. These are mostly children who come from all over Montenegro, but also from countries in the region. In the office of human rights and freedoms argue that it is impossible to determine how many children beggars are in Montenegro. According to some research of this office about 350 children are begging in Montenegro. That number, however, significantly increases during the summer season when children from countries in the region come to Montenegro.
Studies have shown that children do not retain collected money but also do not want to reveal to whom they give the money to. This is exploitation of children, and a special problem is that they do not have documents. The office of the Human Rights warns that in this way the children can easily become victims of human trafficking.
Annual reports from relevant institutions show that in Montenegro there are at least 300 minors reported as beggars, mostly Roma and Egyptians. These are mostly children aged seven to 16 years old. Research shows that the authorities generally do not have systematic records of children that are engaged in begging. Locations where children are begging are big intersection, main squares, markets, shopping centers and neighborhoods in which they live. Children often visit family homes door-to-door asking for alms. This kind of begging, according to the responses from the centers, is characteristic for members of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, concludes the report on the protection of children from exploitation.
In Montenegro there are about 8,000 Roma and Egyptians. This population represent around 1.3% of the country’s total population. Despite the fact that the position of this community has been improved in recent years, they still live in extremely poor conditions and the advancement of this community will be one of the tasks of Montenegro on its way to European integration. More than 90% of the Roma population lives in undeveloped areas, very few of them have a permanent job and ethnic gap in Montenegro is mostly directed precisely towards the Roma.
In 2013, 56 children were apprehended by the police for begging, while 6 juveniles have already been apprehended in 2014. Police has filed 22 requests for legal proceedings for incitement for begging. The key problem remains the inclusion of children begging on the streets in the educational process. However, it is impossible without the support of their parents, who do not want their children to go to school and are forcing them to beg on the streets. Roma children do not see begging as a form of exploitation, but see it as a way to help their parents survive. A child in a day begging on the street makes from 30 to 50 euros. Parents therefore show some resistance to sheltering children from the streets.