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As Belgrade marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a new survey shows that intolerance, especially towards Roma and asylum seekers, remains severe.
With banners reading "We are all Roma" and "Stop racism", members of the Serbian NGO Women in Black staged a performance against discrimination in Belgrade on Thursday.
The occasion was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, observed annually on March 21.
On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid regime.
Stasa Zajovic, from the Women in Black, said the aim was to remind state institutions and society that intolerance, particularly against Roma, remains a serious problem in Serbia.
Nevena Petrusic, Serbia's Commissioner for Equality, said she agreed that discrimination, especially against Roma, is still prevalent, pointing to racially motivated attacks, segregation, hate speech and public expressions of intolerance against Roma and asylum seekers from African and other countries.
"Although we face such cases almost on daily basis, they are not processed or punished or face condemnation from the general public," Petrusic said in a statement on Thursday.
According to an annual report that the Commissioner published on Thursday, 60 per cent of people believe discrimination in Serbia is high, while 3 per cent believe there is no discrimination in the country.
The report, based on a survey carried out by the Commissioner and the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, CeSID, in 2012, also shows that people are most prone to discrimination based on sexual orientation, religious belief, nationality and ethnicity.
The most vulnerable groups include Roma, the poor, the elderly, people with disabilities, women and sexual minorities.
According to the report, the highest degree of ethnic distance among Serbs exists towards Albanians, followed by Croats, Bosniaks and Roma. The smallest ethnic distance is with Hungarians.
Petrusic said that racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination can be countered through continuing education, especially of young people.
"Racism cannot in any way be justified, tolerated as something that happens to others, and it will not go away, but we all have to contribute to its eradication," the Commissioner concluded.
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