The programme of humanitarian, psychosocial, legal and medical assistance to elderly Romas, victims of the Nazi persecution, has been implemented since 17 April 2003 on the initiative of International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The German foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility, Future” and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (holocaust victim assets litigation with Swiss banks) authorised IOM to manage the humanitarian assistance to elderly Romas, the survived victims of the persecution of the Nazi regime, born before 9 May 1945.

In the first five and a half months, till 30 September 2003, ICS implemented the project in six municipalities in South-eastern Serbia: Aleksinac, Bela Palanka, Pirot, Vranjska Banja, Vranje and Bujanovac, and provided the assistance and support for 900 beneficiaries.

Since 1 October 2003, the programme has been extended by one year, and one more municipality was included – Leskovac. The number of beneficiaries rose to 1,300. The next project extension by seven more months ensued on 1 October 2004. In the municipalities Vranjska Banja, Vranje and Bujanovac, ICS directly implements the project, while in the other municipalities it cooperates with the local partners on its implementation.

Social clubs, founded in six municipalities, are the centre of all programme activities. There, the beneficiaries meet and socialise, spend the time with their peers in an informal and relaxed atmosphere, talking, playing social games, doing handicrafts, watching TV, reading the newspapers. Apart from the ‘free’ activities, once a week, the beneficiaries have the opportunities to, depending on their interests, organise a special event, with the help of the club host. Sometimes, these are visits of a lawyer or a social worker, who give them the advice or provide assistance dealing with specific problems; sometimes, these are exhibitions, showing their handicrafts; music nights; however, outings and sight seeing are the most popular events.

In the seventh municipality, Leskovac, instead of a social club, there is a centre for legal counselling, where four times a week the beneficiaries can obtain the legal assistance.

Apart form the clubs, in all seven municipalities, there is a ‘medical space’, where three times a week the beneficiaries can get the advice of a doctor and a nurse, as well as the most needed medicines. The doctor also records their needs for glasses or prostheses, and directs them to institutions and surgeries which provide these as part of the programme. Once a week, the medical teams visit the beneficiaries who cannot come to the club, due to the illness or disability. Thus, these beneficiaries get the assistance and medicines in their homes.

Apart from regular monthly activities, once every three months, ICS organises the delivery of a hygiene parcel and a food parcel for each beneficiary in the programme. Most beneficiaries get their parcels in the clubs, while the ill beneficiaries or those who cannot come to the club due to any reason get their parcels at home. During winter, each beneficiary gets a certain, programme-determined, quantity of the firewood, delivered at home.

The most vulnerable beneficiaries have the opportunity to receive the emergency financial support. It can cover different categories of needs, and can be used for the payment of the medical services, operations, hearing aids, chemotherapy medicines, measurement devices for blood sugar, but can also provide for the electricity bills, utilities, the necessary clothes, beds, wood stoves, etc.