ERRC Letter to Slovene Minister of Interior

July 18, 2001, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, sent a letter to Dr Rado Bohinc, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, to express concern about the reported difficulties that Roma in Slovenia face when attempting to obtain Slovene residence permits and/or Slovene citizenship.

The ERRC has received information that Mr Sead Alimanovic, a Romani man originally from Bosnia, faces possible deportation, because his February application for a Slovene residence permit remains unanswered as a result of the failure of local authorities to provide the necessary housing certification. Mr Alimanovic has lived in Ljubljana, Slovenia, since 1985, with a break from 1992 to 1997, when he was in Germany. For eleven years, he has been legally married to a Slovene citizen, and their three children all have Slovene citizenship. However, as of July 18, 2001, Mr Alimanovic had been unable to obtain a residence permit in Slovenia, due to the restrictive policies of the Slovene authorities pertaining to the status of foreigners and citizenship procedures. If Mr Alimanovic is not successful in obtaining a residence permit for Slovenia, he will be forced to leave the country and thus be forcibly separated from his family.

ERRC field research in Slovenia in February 2001 documented a number of cases similar to that of Mr Alimanovic of Roma who are originally from other former Yugoslav republics, who lived in Slovenia when the country was a part of the Yugoslav federation, and who lost the right to residence when Slovenia became independent in 1991. Currently, it is estimated that at least 75% of Roma whose official documents or names link them to other former Yugoslav republics do not have Slovene citizenship or legal residence in Slovenia.

In its July 18 letter, the ERRC reminded Minister Bohinc of Slovenia?s duties under international law to respect the right to family life, the right to an effective legal remedy for violations suffered, and of the respective non-discrimination provisions to which Slovenia has voluntarily committed itself. Additionally, the ERRC called attention to Slovenia?s duties under international law to take steps to reduce the effects of statelessness in its territory.

Further information on the situation of Roma in Slovenia is available on the Internet at: http://errc.org/publications/indices/slovenia.shtml. It is also the subject of a field report in the forthcoming ERRC quarterly Roma Rights 2/2001.

The text of the letter follows:

Honourable Dr Bohinc,

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is concerned about the reported difficulties that Roma in Slovenia face when attempting to obtain Slovene residence permits and/or Slovene citizenship.

The ERRC has received information that Mr Sead Alimanovic, a Romani man originally from Bosnia, faces possible deportation, because his February application for a Slovene residence permit remains unanswered, as it is allegedly incomplete. Mr Alimanovic has lived in Ljubljana, Slovenia, since 1985, with a break from 1992 to 1997, when he was in Germany. For eleven years, he has been legally married to a Slovene citizen, and their three children all have Slovene citizenship. However, as of July 18, 2001, Mr Alimanovic had been unable to obtain a residence permit in Slovenia, due to the restrictive policies of the Slovene authorities pertaining to the status of foreigners and citizenship procedures. If Mr Alimanovic does not obtain a residence permit for Slovenia, he will be forced to leave the country and thus be forcibly separated from his family.

According to Mr Alimanovic?s testimony, provided to the ERRC on March 21, 2001, his temporary visa for Slovenia expired on February 17. Before his visa expired, on February 2, he applied for a three-year residence permit (application number: 3283-25204-621(60785)) pursuant to Article 37 of the Slovenian Aliens Act of 1999. According to this article, foreigners who are immediate family members of Slovene citizens have the right to apply for three-year residence permits, with the possibility of later extension. On March 12, however, he received a letter from the Office for Passports and Foreigners of the Sector for Administrative Internal Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Administrative Unit Ljubljana, where he had applied for the visa, informing him that they required an additional document proving that he has housing in Slovenia.

Mr Alimanovic subsequently went to the offices of the Housing Fund of Ljubljana Municipalities on March 21. His request for a certificate acknowledging that he has suitable housing was refused by the official responsible on the grounds that he had occupied his current flat by force. However, the same office issues bills to the Alimanovic family at the same address. Mr Alimanovic previously appealed in writing to the same office for this document in May 2000, and was refused with the same argument. Mr Alimanovic claims that he turned an abandoned toilet cabin into a flat, and that as there was no such flat on that location before, he could not have moved in by force.

On March 26, Mr Alimanovic filed an appeal with the Office for Passports and Foreigners, explaining that he had been unable to obtain a document proving that he has housing in Slovenia. On March 29, the ERRC sent a letter of concern to the same office, as well as to the Housing Fund, indicating concerns that Slovenia risks contravening several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights by continuing to deny Mr Alimanovic a residence permit. In response to the ERRC letter, on April 23, the Housing Fund issued a certificate to his wife, Ms Alimanovi, stating inter alia that the family had moved into their current residence by force, but also that they have been paying for utilities since February 5, 1999.

Mr Alimanovic submitted this certificate with the Office for Passports and Foreigners shortly afterwards. However, as of July 18, his application remained unanswered. The response to Mr Alimanovic's oral inquiries as to the status of his application was again that he still had not submitted a relevant housing certificate.

This state of affairs has serious negative consequences for Mr Alimanovic. His father died recently in Bosnia, and Mr Alimanovic was unable to attend the funeral because of the unsolved visa situation. Had Mr Alimanovic left the country, he would most likely not have been able to return to Slovenia without further bureaucratic difficulties, as Bosnian citizens must obtain visas before entering Slovenia. Mr Alimanovic told the ERRC he was concerned that, if the authorities persist in refusing to issue him a residence permit, his residence in Slovenia will be rendered illegal, with the result that he may be forced to leave Slovenia, and thus will be forcibly separated from his wife and children.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly held that the arbitrary separation of families via the means of expulsion, absent a legitimate aim pursued, constitutes a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Further, in light of the fact that there are repeated allegations that such measures are exercised disproportionately against Roma, the repeated denial of a residence permit to Mr Alimanovic may also constitute a violation of Article 14 of the ECHR, the non-discrimination provision of the Convention.

Additionally, ERRC field research in Slovenia in February 2001 documented a number of cases similar to that of Mr Alimanovic of Roma who are originally from other former Yugoslav republics, who lived in Slovenia when the country was a part of the Yugoslav federation, and who lost the right to residence when Slovenia became independent in 1991. Currently, it is estimated that at least 75% of Roma originally from other former Yugoslav republics do not have Slovene citizenship or legal residence in Slovenia. In addition, numerous Roma testified to the ERRC about cases in which they felt they were singled out by the police and arbitrarily charged for offences related to a lack of adequate documents because they look Romani. The Roma interviewed by the ERRC expressed deep disappointment with the fact that the country in which they have lived for decades, to which they have formed legitimate ties, and in which a number of their young children were born, has overnight chosen to deprive them of equal treatment with the rest of the population, or at best treat them as foreigners. The fact that, for most of the 20th century, Slovenia was an integral part of the country of origin for an overwhelming majority of people now applying for Slovene citizenship is a consideration of paramount importance under international law. We respectfully remind your office that Slovenia is a signatory to the United Nations 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which states, inter alia, 'The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of stateless persons. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings.' (Article 32). Additionally, Article 18 of the 1997 European Convention on Nationality calls for the following action with regards to statelessness resulting from state succession:

  1. In matters of nationality in cases of State succession, each State Party concerned shall respect the principles of the rule of law, the rules concerning human rights and the principles contained in Articles 4 and 5 of this Convention and in paragraph 2 of this article, in particular in order to avoid statelessness.
  2. In deciding on the granting or the retention of nationality in cases of State succession, each State Party concerned shall take account in particular of:

    a. the genuine and effective link of the person concerned with the State;
    b. the habitual residence of the person concerned at the time of State succession;
    c. the will of the person concerned;
    d. the territorial origin of the person concerned.

Articles 4 and 5 affirm the right to a nationality, and the principle of non-discrimination in matters pertaining to nationality respectively.

Honourable Minister Bohinc, in the case of Mr Alimanovic, we urge your office to take into consideration the fact that Mr Alimanovic is married to a Slovenian national, has three children from the marriage, has a home in Slovenia, and has lived in the country for more than eleven years, and to accordingly grant him legal residence. We also respectfully request to be informed of any actions taken by your office in this case. Additionally, the ERRC calls upon your office to do everything in your power to reduce statelessness among Roma in Slovenia. We additionally call upon the Slovene authorities to sign and ratify the 1997 European Convention on Nationality, and to bring Slovene legislation into conformity with internationals norms on citizenship in the context of state succession.

Sincerely,
Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director

Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:

Dr Rado Bohinc
Minister of Internal Affairs
Stefanova 2
1000 Ljubljana
Slovenia
Fax: (+386 1) 251 43 30
E-mail: rado.bohinc@mnz.si
 

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