Education & Training

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Public Hearing on the Issue of "Statelessness and Poverty in Serbia"

With the support of UNHCR and UNDP, on 10 December 2009, at the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, a joint session of the Poverty Reduction Committee, the Committee for Labour, Veterans and Social Affairs and the Committee  for International Relations was held in form of a public hearing on the issue of “Statelessness and Poverty in Serbia“. Within the introduction, the participants were addressed by: Ms. Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic, Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Eduardo Arboleda, UNHCR Representative in Serbia, Mr. Sasa Gajin, representative of the Center for Advanced Legal Studies and Ms. Ivanka Kostic, Executive Director of Praxis.

At the beginning of the joint session the participants were addressed by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Prof. Dr Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic. In her statement, the Speaker emphasized that the problem of statelessness was usually mentioned as part of the access to human and minority rights issue. She stressed that today’s gathering demonstrated the determination of the National Assembly to address this problem in an all-inclusive manner. Statistics show that at least 17,000 persons in Serbia have no citizenship, the majority being the “legally invisible” persons of Roma nationality who live on the social margins and face problems in exercising their civil rights. The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia guarantees access to human rights, as well as the right to legal person. The National Assembly ratified many international and regional agreements within the field of human rights, passed the Law on National Minority Councils and the Law against Discrimination, all indicating a determination in seeking a systemic solution for the problem of statelessness. She presented the advocacy activities conducted by international agencies and non-governmental organizations for the adoption of the Law on the Procedure for Recognition of Persons before the Law and invited all members of the Assembly and members of the executive authorities to jointly find a systemic solution for the “legally invisible” persons. The Speaker expressed her gratitude to the international organizations for the expert support that they provide to the institutions in Serbia and emphasized that the National Assembly would do all within its power for these persons to access their rights.


The UNHCR Representative in Serbia, Mr. Eduardo Arboleda suggested simple and concrete measures which could be implemented by the Assembly with the aim of preventing statelessness and poverty. First of all, he stressed the importance of the signing of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the importance of the legislative amendments which would create mechanisms for an easier identification of stateless persons and the reduction of statelessness, emphasising the positive experience of other countries. He also invited members of the Assembly and members of the executive authority to support the systemic changes by adopting the suggested Law on the Procedure for Recognition of Persons before the Law and the new Law on Permanent and Temporary Residence. Finally, UNHCR activities in Serbia were presented, as well as a film which was made during the implementation of the Project “Social Inclusion and Access to Human Rights for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities in the Western Balkans”.

The Chairman of the International Relations Committee, Mr. Miletic Mihajlovic, said that statelessness also presented a problem for the access to rights of national minorities and expressed the Committee’s full support in resolving this issue.


The Chairman of the Committee for Labour, Veterans and Social Affairs, Mr. Meho Omerovic, stated that the Committee would, within its authority and through the competent Ministry, work on amending the current laws, in order to achieve bearable living conditions for such persons. He announced that a new Law on Social Protection would be passed, which would define provision of urgent response measures to stateless persons until they acquire citizenship, enabling them to exercise other measures of protection provided by the state. 


Ms. Ivanka Kostic, Executive Director of Praxis and Mr. Sasa Gajin from the Center for Advanced Legal Studies made a brief presentation of the problems encountered in practice, activities of the non-governmental sector, suggested solutions in the Model Law on the Procedure for Recognition of Persons before the Law and current attempts to draw attention of the competent ministries to the problem of the “legally invisible” persons.  They expressed their concern regarding the absence of the representatives of the Ministry for Public Administration and Local Self-Government, who persistently evade attending meetings aimed at finding solutions for problems faced by the persons who are not recognized before the law.


Apart from the representatives of the Assembly, the public hearing was attended by representatives of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Office of the National Security Council, the non-governmental sector and international organizations. During the discussion it was emphasized that there were no adequate mechanisms for protection of persons without citizenship, especially mechanisms for their identification, that statelessness was related to problems of poverty and crime, which could be issues of national and regional security, and that the problem should be solved proactively and not repressively. The issues of readmission and visa liberalization were also discussed in relation to statelessness, as well as the cooperation of the non-governmental sector, international organizations and competent ministries. 


At the end of the discussion, the Chairman of the Poverty Reduction Committee, Ms. Snezana Stojanovic-Plavsic summed up the results of the discussion and concluded that all of the participants agreed that there were no political and legal obstacles for the adoption of the Law on the Procedure for Recognition of Persons before the Law which would systemically solve this problem, and assessed that partnership of all actors is of great importance in the process of adopting such an important law.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action