ERRC Challenges Discrimination of Roma at the Border Before the Constitutional Court of Macedonia
Budapest, Skopje, 26 February 2014: The European Roma Rights Centre has launched an initiative before the Constitutional Court of Macedonia claiming that amendments to the Law on Travel Documents of citizens of Macedonia (grounds for revocation of passports as well as obstacles to the right to leave the country) are in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia as well as with international instruments for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Citizens of Macedonia have enjoyed the right to visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone since 19 December 2009, and enjoy the right to visa-free travel to other neighbouring countries. Citizens of Macedonia also enjoy a human right to leave their own country.
The ERRC has become aware that some Romani individuals cannot exercise these rights; they are subject to discriminatory practices and other inappropriate treatment by border officials when they are trying to leave the country.
The ERRC has conducted research on the matter and gathered data which indicates that racially motivated discriminatory practices by Macedonian officials take place at the borders of Macedonia. Between 2011 and 2013, the ERRC documented the cases of 74 Romani individuals who were prevented from exiting the country as well as 24 cases of passport revocations by Macedonian border officials. Additional, the ERRC, while working in the field, has become aware of another 50 similar cases.
90% of the ERRC’s documented cases show that only Roma were asked for evidence to justify why they were travelling (i.e. in cases when Roma and non-Roma were travelling together). Furthermore, 60% of Roma involved in these cases were told by the border officials that they (the border officials) were instructed to restrict the rights of the people concerned. It appears that they were ‘instructed’ to act based on race. 30% of those Roma concerned were told explicitly by the border officials that they can not cross the border due to their ethnicity, that is, they were explicitly told that they can not cross the border because they are Roma.
In its Constitutional Court initiative, the ERRC has requested the highest judicial authority of the country to declare certain amendments to the law – allowing for the revocation of passports in various circumstances – unconstitutional. The law currently grants the authorities excessive powers to revoke passports, and these powers significantly worsen the situation of Macedonian Roma who wish to exercise their free-movement rights.
ERRC Executive Director Dezideriu Gergely stated that, “The problems Roma facing will not disappear when they are illegally prevented from travelling. On the contrary, discrimination at the borders creates new obstacles for Roma integration and respect for Roma rights.
The ERRC urges the Macedonian authorities to investigate effectively the claims of race discrimination by border guards and prosecute all officials responsible for these unlawful acts. Further regulations to ensure that Roma are able to enjoy their freedom of movement equally with non-Roma in Macedonia must be introduced.
Findings of ERRC border research available in English and in Macedonian.
This press release is also available in Macedonian.
For more information, contact:
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre