Sunday, 10 January 2010

Praxis' Activities in the Field of Readmission in 2009




In 2009, Praxis provided direct legal assistance to 119 returnees upon readmission agreements from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Norway and the Netherlands. The returnees submitted 251 requests for the issuance of birth certificates (through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, administration authorities and consulates in Serbia) and citizenship certificates, requests for admission to citizenship, registration into birth registry books and re-registration into civil registry books. Praxis filed reports and complaints with the competent authorities against the misconduct of certain bodies. In addition, Praxis covered the returnees’ costs of paying fees for the issuance of identity documents, application for the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia, as well as their travel expenses incurred in order to obtain ID cards. The returnees were provided with legal counselling in over 300 cases related to education, employment, social protection and health care and other areas.

Although it may seem that the current regulations provide protection to returnees upon readmission agreements, the practice has shown that unreasonable requirements are often set for accessing personal documents, which is a precondition for exercising the status rights. Inefficient, complicated and expensive procedures are sometimes insurmountable barriers for returnees in obtaining their personal documents.

Praxis’ experience to date indicates that the returnees originating from Kosovo are particularly at risk of having their rights violated, since a part of civil registry books was destroyed or went missing during the conflict in Kosovo. The procedure of re-registration into civil registry books before the administration authorities in Serbia (in 7 municipalities) administering the registry books from Kosovo may last even longer than six months. The practice of these bodies in handling requests for re-registration into registry books is uneven, as a consequence of different interpretations of laws and different application of regulations, but also the lack of regulations to address the specific needs of this category of population.

As regards to obtaining documents from BiH and Macedonia, the situation is also unsatisfactory. The process of obtaining documents through the Consulate of Macedonia in the Republic of Serbia lasts even longer than two months, while the documents from BiH can be obtained only personally or through a proxy (if the person can appoint a proxy).

The duration of the procedure for obtaining documents from other countries through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia varies. The administrative fees range from 20 to 30 euros per document.

In practice, it often happens that returnees from Sweden do not have notarised certificates, which incurs additional costs for them, although the Hague Convention is in effect between Serbia and Sweden and it envisages that a notary public in Sweden should put an Apostille stamp on these certificates.

Upon the expiry of single-entry travel documents, returnees are subject to the rules regarding the identification and proof of one’s status, applicable to all citizens of the Republic of Serbia. The impossibility of registering permanent residence in Serbia, for the reason of not possessing property in Serbia or not being allowed to register residence at some other address, makes it impossible for returnees to obtain an ID card and access basic human rights.

The certificates of acquired education in the countries from which the returnees were deported must be translated in Serbian language by a sworn court interpreter, in order to be validated. The fee for issuing a decision on the validation of primary school certificates equals 1,750.00 dinars, while the fee for issuing a decision on the validation of high school certificates amounts to 3,490.00 dinars. A returnee may be exempted from the payment of fees in accordance with the Law on Republic Administrative Fees, if the request for validation is supported with the proof of his/her unemployment or the certificate on being the beneficiary of social allowance, provided that his/her status in Serbia has been regulated.

It often happens that the authorities, in particular the social welfare centres, advise the returnees to address Praxis for assistance in obtaining documents, due to their own insufficient capacity. Moreover, the centres point out that some individuals are not able to submit all the necessary documents, due to a great number of supporting documents required to be submitted in order to prove that a particular person is in the state of social need. In addition, during Praxis visits to social welfare centres throughout Serbia, it has been noticed that the employees of certain centres do not have proper or any knowledge of their obligations related to returnees upon readmission agreements.

Taking into consideration the extensive experience of some non-governmental organisations in working with returnees upon readmission agreements in the field of obtaining personal documents and accessing basic rights, we believe that it would be very useful and necessary to establish better cooperation between the non-governmental and governmental sectors, for the purpose of better coordination of certain activities and efficient protection of the rights of returnees upon readmission agreements.




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