UNHCR: Number of persons at risk of statelessness in Serbia reduced by half

  • Over the last four years the number of “legally invisible” Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (RAE) has more than halved according to a survey “Persons at risk of statelessness in Serbia – Progress Report 2010-2015” released by the UN Refugee Agency, today.

Belgrade, 7 June 2016 – Over the last four years the number of “legally invisible” Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (RAE) has more than halved according to a survey “Persons at risk of statelessness in Serbia – Progress Report 2010-2015” released by the UN Refugee Agency, today.

“We are pleased to see the progress made since April 2012 when the Ministry for Public Administration and Local Self Government, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Serbia and the UN Refugee Agency signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding, aiming to tackle the statelessness issue in Serbia,” said Hans Friedrich Schodder, Representative of UNHCR in Serbia.

REA communities, MOU signatories, other relevant ministries and authorities, as well as civil society together have made significant progress in enacting positive legislative changes as well as harmonized, simplified procedures in the area of birth registration and registration of residence.

The survey, conducted by SeCons in September-October 2015 involved close to 2,000 housesholds (almost 9,000 persons) in 154 RAE settlements of in 77 municipalities of Serbia. Presenting its findings, Professor Slobodan Cvejić also made recommendations towards adoption and implementation of systemic solutions and full participation of the Roma community.

“We can celebrate successful conclusion of the MOU at the end of this year, and remain committed to continue cooperation to ensure implementation of all the important recommendations of this survey so that each and every newborn baby in Serbia, including those with parents of undetermined nationality, receives a birth-certificate,” added Schodder. For this purpose, the UN Refugee Agency today announced the donation of 16 computers to birth registry offices within the project “Welcome Baby to the World”.

“The Government of the Republic of Serbia has paid particular attention to statelessness over the recent years. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the line ministry, UNHCR Representation in Serbia and Ombudsman just over four years ago and it served as a framework for identification and implementation of the most efficient solutions to resolve this problem. Our objective is to allow for registration of newborn babies into the birth registries though their parents may be “legally invisible”, i.e. not in possession of a personal document or a birth certificate, and thus prevent new cases of statelessness. I wish to thank UNHCR for their donation of computers which will significantly simplify the work of the registry offices. Even though the MOU expires next year, I am sure that our successful cooperation will continue beyond that time,“ said Kori Udovički, Minister of Public Administration and Local Self Government.

Said Robert Sepi, Deputy Ombudsman of the Republic of Serbia “The number of “legally invisible” persons has decreased substantially thanks to the Memorandum of Understanding. Most importantly, the initiative of the Ombudsman for changes and amendments of the Law on Non-Contentious Procedure was adopted whereby the persons with no civil status recognized were allowed to register in the birth registries. It is very important that the facts and data related to birth, citizenship, personal name and registration of habitual residence at the address of social welfare centres be registered in good time”.

By submitting legal initiatives, organizing visits and campaigns in Roma settlements and capacity building of civil servants, the Ombudsman consistently advocated for adoption of fundamental values that are at core of civilization - recognition of civil status of “legally invisible” persons, so that they may avail themselves of the basic rights provided for in the Constitution and the laws just as all the other citizens.

The Ombudsman welcomes all the joint activities of international organisations, state authorities and independent institutions that recognize the significance of protection and advancement of human rights as well as preservation of human dignity”

Download the study ”Persons at Risk of Statelessness in Serbia – Progress Report 2010-2015” at http://www.unhcr.rs/dokumenti/istrazivanja/

Worldwide, more than 10 million people suffer from the consequences of lack of nationality: denial of fundamental human rights to health, education, employment, identity documents. The key universal conventions addressing statelessness are the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The Republic of Serbia is party to both.

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