Roma Face Difficulties in Obtaining Citizenship in Serbia and Montenegro

On September 24, 2002, the Podgorica-based daily newspaper Vijesti reported that fifty-three Roma attempting to apply for citizenship, with proper documentation, were expelled from the Niskić Municipal Registration Office on September 23, 2002. On September 26, 2002, the non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) reported that the Roma were forced to wait outside the Registration Office in the rain for four hours before being permitted to enter the building.As reported in Vijesti, a conflict ensued between the employees of the Registration Office and the Roma, during which the employees reportedly cursed at the Roma. Mr Hajruši Ramo, a Romani man, stated that he was kicked out of the office and the door was locked behind him according to Vijesti. Vijesti also reported that another Romani man, Mr Vinetu Kurti, had his papers thrown in the trash by one of the employees at the Registration Office when he submitted his application. According to the daily, the Roma involved in the incident were of the opinion that they were ignored, insulted and threatened in order to deter them from applying for citizenship. On October 1, 2002, the Podgorica office of the HLC reported to the ERRC that the rejected Roma filed a complaint regarding the incident with the Ministry of Justice on the day of the incident.

On September 25, 2002, Vijesti reported that the procedure for receiving citizenship was sped up for the fifty-three Roma after administrative inspectors from the Ministry of Justice visited the Niskić Municipal Registration Office on September 24, 2002. According to Vijesti, thirty Roma were reportedly issued citizenship documents on September 24, 2002, and an additional twenty were expected to be issued soon thereafter. Following this, approximately sixty more Roma reportedly submitted their documentation to begin the procedure of applying for citizenship, as many are employed by state-owned companies which require that they show their identification documents in order to receive their salaries.

However, on October 1, 2002, the HLC informed the ERRC that on September 25, 2002, a representative of it's Podgorica Office accompanied a group of Roma to the Niskić Municipal Registration Office and observed as they applied for their citizenship certificates. The HLC informed the ERRC that the administrative worker was friendly and polite to non-Roma at the counter, but when Roma approached the counter, her temperament changed. According to the HLC, the administrative worker only addressed the Roma in the office as a group and was reportedly quite rude to them, yelling at them. The HLC witnessed each Romani person present be refused as they tried to apply for citizenship certificates, despite almost all having all the necessary documentation. The administrative worker reportedly refused to accept a driver's licence as a form of identification from the Roma, even though, this is an acceptable form of identification under the law. The administrative worker apparently requested that the Roma show personal identification cards, even though she was made aware that the Roma were applying for their citizenship certificates in order to obtain these. HLC expressed disbelief that the thirty Roma reported in the media to have been issued their citizenship documents on September 24, 2002, had actually received these.

Earlier in the same month, on September 6-8, 2002, the ERRC held a conference in Igalo, Montenegro, which dealt with the issue of barriers of Roma to citizenship and other personal documents, to highlight issues related to documents and access by Roma to fundamental human rights.

(ERRC, HLC, Vijesti)

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