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Lack of birth certificates leaves Romani children in Balkans at risk of statelessness and without healthcare or education

26 October 2017

Skopje, Budapest 26 October 2017: Living without documents is having a profound impact on thousands of Roma living in the Western Balkans and Ukraine, warns a report from the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI), and the European Network on Statelessness (ENS).

The report calls on governments in the region to focus attention on statelessness among Roma and to reform complex civil registration procedures which hinder access to crucial documents needed to prove their identity and nationality. It highlights that leaving Romani children without a birth certificate means that they are growing up without a nationality. Because of this, thousands of Roma are left struggling to access key services such as education, healthcare and housing.

One Romani man in Macedonia told the researchers "I have not gone to school. I went once, but when they asked for a birth certificate, I was very ashamed and left. I never went back…".

The research reveals the immense impact of the protracted wars following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, coupled with the systemic exclusion and discrimination of Roma, on their lives, a fact made worse if they can’t prove their nationality. Being forced to leave their homes during the war, sometimes without any documents, left Roma struggling to navigate complex procedures and to produce necessary records to solve their documentation issues when they return home. Additionally, institutional racism and pervading antigypsyism identified in some research countries puts up barriers which hinder Romani access to their basic rights as citizens.

The research also points to some of the positive work in the region done by civil society organisations in cooperation with governments to simplify civil registration procedures, fill the gaps in legislation and raise awareness about the importance of addressing the issue. Such efforts show that it is possible to tackle statelessness with a proactive approach in line with the recommendations set out in this report, which lays out a road map for countries to follow to end statelessness in the region.

The report also issues a call to the European Commission to make stamping out the problem of statelessness and antigypsyism a priority issue when countries negotiate their membership of the Union.

For more information, or to arrange an interview contact:

Jonathan Lee
Communications Coordinator
European Roma Rights Centre
jonathan.lee@errc.org
+36 30 500 2118

Jan Brulc
Head of Communications
European Network on Statelessness
jan.brulc@statelessness.eu
+44 77 264 72797
 

Note to Editors

“Roma Belong – Statelessness, Discrimination and Marginalisation of Roma in the Western Balkans and Ukraine” report was produced by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI), in collaboration with country project partners Tirana Legal Aid Society (TLAS – Albania), Vaša prava BiH Association (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA – Macedonia), Mladi Romi (Montenegro), Praxis (Serbia) and Desyate Kvitnya (Ukraine).

More information on the #RomaBelong project can be found here.

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