Romani Children Denied Personal Identification Documents in Romania
7 February 2004
On May 26, 2003, the electronic news source Inforrom reported that the Mehedinţ County Population Registry refused to issue passports to a number of Romani children. Mr Ion Stanomire, Chief of the service, was quoted as having stated that Romani children are taken to foreign countries to beg, so he will ask for proof that the families of Romani children have sufficient finances to support themselves before issuing passports. Mr Stanomire further stated, "When we see a mother wanting to leave the country with a 3-year-old, we don't think she is a tourist. From what they tell us, they can make up to 50 Euro per day begging. This is money earned without work, as they like." Mr Stanomire further said, "We want to create a favourable image for our country and we cannot avoid taking some measures", according to Inforrom.
The refusal to issue passports to Romani children imposes an arbitrary restriction on the freedom of movement protected under international law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Romania ratified in 1976, states unequivocally, in Article 12(2), "Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own." Article 12(3) goes further to say, "The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law [...]." In addition to the apparently baldly discriminatory targeting of Roma for denial of documents, the refusal to issue passports to Romani children was apparently in direct contravention of Romanian law. According to Government Ordinance 65/1997 regarding passport regulations in Romania, as approved by Law No. 216/1998 and amended by Government Ordinance 84/2003, Article 14(1) states, "Romanian citizens can be temporarily denied passports on the basis of: a. persons under investigation for a criminal act with a punishment longer than two years imprisonment at the request of the police and for no longer than seven days; b. persons under investigation for a criminal act where the prosecutor has stipulated that said person cannot leave the country; c. persons sentenced to imprisonment; d. persons with debt larger than 25 million Romanian lei if the creditors so request; e. [...] persons found guilty of begging while abroad, or if the person committed crimes against national security, public order, protection of health or ethnicity, the fundamental rights and freedoms of another person, or crimes which were established by a court decision or are currently under criminal investigation. The same measure can be taken against Romanian citizens returned from States with which Romania has readmission agreements and against Romanian citizens returned from States with whom there is no readmission agreement but where the person exceeded the time allowance in the country."