Roma Rights 3, 2003: Personal Documents and Access to Fundamental Rights

Roma Rights 3/2003 takes as its theme "Personal Documents and Access to Fundamental Rights". Research shows that numerous Roma around Europe - and particularly in countries emerging from the dissolution of large federations such as the former Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia remain disproportionately affected by a lack of personal documents, including birth certificates, identity documents, residence permits, documents proving eligibility for state-provided social welfare and health insurance, and passports. Roma are frequently unable to access citizenship, and the anathema phenomenon of statelessness has arisen in a number of states. The lack of one document leads to the inability, in many cases, to access others. The inability of Roma to access such basic personal documents has given rise to a situation in which their ability to access services crucial to the realisation of a number of fundamental rights and freedoms is threatened and, in many cases, denied. Due to a lack of personal documents, many Roma are barred in practice from registering to vote, registering residences, and accessing rights to health care, education, employment and social benefits. Roma living in regions affected by state succession and massive forced migrations, such as the war-affected former Yugoslav countries, are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon. Apart from localised actions by some non-governmental organisations, little work to date has been undertaken to remedy this problem.

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