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Thursday, 26 October 2017

Prevention of Birth Registration Exposes Roma Children to the Risk of Statelessness in the Balkans and Leaves Them without Health Care and Education

The report of the organisations European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), Institute for Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) and the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) warns that the lack of documents has extremely negative consequences for the lives of thousands of Roma living in the Western Balkans and Ukraine.

These organisations urge the countries in the region to focus on stateless Roma and to facilitate the birth registration procedure, which poses obstacles to Roma in accessing documents without which they cannot prove their identity and citizenship. It is emphasized that leaving Roma children without birth certificates leads to their growing up and living as stateless persons. As a result, thousands of Roma face difficulties in accessing core services and rights, such as the right to education, health care and housing.

One of the interviewed Roma women from Serbia says: "I did not give up, but I do not see that something will happen and change my situation for the better. I'm sorry because I know that many things would be better if I only had citizenship and documents.”

The report reveals the serious consequences that Roma suffer as a result of wars and dissolution of the former SFRY, along with systemic discrimination and social exclusion. It is particularly difficult for those who could not prove citizenship. The Roma who were forced to leave their homes during the war, often without any documents, upon return faced with complicated procedures and numerous difficulties in attempting to obtain documents. In addition, institutional discrimination and racism, recorded in some of the countries covered by the research, have created obstacles that prevent Roma from accessing the basic rights that other citizens enjoy.

The research also shows some positive and successful examples of civil society cooperation with the state aimed at facilitating the procedures for registering into birth registry books, eliminating legislative shortcomings and raising awareness about the importance of solving this problem. These efforts show that the problem of statelessness can be solved with a proactive approach and in line with the recommendations given in this report, which can serve as an example of good practice for other countries in the region.

At the same time, the report calls on the European Commission to recognise the problem of statelessness and discrimination against Roma as a matter of priority in the process of negotiations for EU membership. 

Download the report on this link.

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