Macedonia Must Stop Playing with Roma Passports

Budapest, Skopje, 26 March 2015: The ERRC has written today to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Macedonia to demand that they investigate allegations that politicians are coercing Roma to vote for their party by seizing their passports.

The letter comes in response to leaked phone conversations purportedly between high-placed government officials. During the phone conversations the officials appear to explain how they withhold the passports of “Gypsies” in order to get their support, apparently in elections. It is widely reported that one of those speaking is the Interior Minister.  

The allegations form a part of a larger pattern of manipulation of the passports of Romani Macedonian citizens. As the ERRC has been reporting for over a year, Roma have regularly had their passports seized based on a regulation that the Constitutional Court has since ruled unlawful. Other Roma continue to be stopped from leaving the country at the border by Macedonian border guards based, the ERRC increasingly believes, on their race. Those guards place a special stamp with two lines through it in the person’s passport. A situation testing exercise the ERRC conducted has produced evidence that Roma are being singled out for this treatment.  

“Passports are the most visible evidence of a person’s citizenship”, said András Ujlaky, the ERRC’s Executive Director. “The ongoing manipulation of the passports of Macedonia’s Roma citizens brands them as second-class citizens”.

The ERRC’s advocacy officer and legal director are in Skopje today to talk to the media and international delegations about these problems, including the ERRC’s work to expose institutional racism against Roma at the border. They will be talking about the situation testing the ERRC has organised. They will also be talking about the ERRC’s campaign to encourage Roma to file legal complaints if they have had their passports seized or they have been refused the right to leave the country. By tomorrow, the ERRC expects over fifty complaints to have been filed.

This press release is also available in Macedonian.

The factsheet is also available in Macedonian.

For more information, contact:

Tefik Mahmut
Advocacy Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
Tel. +36.30.500.2026
tefik.mahmut@errc.org 

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