Domestic Cases: Identity Documents
Renewal of ID cards
On 10 November 2015 the European Roma Rights Centre together with the Equal Opportunities Initiative Association (EOIA), a Bulgarian NGO, submitted a discrimination complaint before the Bulgarian Commissioner for Protection Against Discrimination. Under Bulgarian law, a Bulgarian national can register a permanent address in the country only after submitting one of the following documents: a document for ownership of property for living, a rental agreement, an agreement for living in a specialised institution, or a similar ownership document as specifically requested by the municipal authorities. But, due to their history of social and economic exclusion, a substantial proportion of the Roma in Bulgaria live in ethnically segregated neighborhoods, at addresses that do not exist in the city plans; or they do not otherwise possess documents for property ownership we consider that the Article disproportionally affects the members of the Roma community, and therefore amounts to indirect discrimination. The consequences are dire: without a permanent registered address, Roma cannot secure ID documents and are excluded from a host of services, depriving them of access to many fundamental rights.
There are significant numbers of Roma who are stateless or at risk of statelessness in Italy. One of the challenges in correcting this situation is the application of Italy’s naturalisation law to those who have been born and lived in Italy all their lives. The ERRC is supporting a test case challenging the unfair application of Italy’s naturalisation laws and its discriminatory impact on Roma.
With support from the European Network on Statelessness, the ERRC and the Serbian NGO Praxis have lodged a constitutional “initiative” with the Constitutional Court in Serbia attacking a provision of legislation which allows registrars to delay birth registration. Many Roma in Serbia, following years of exclusion, discrimination, and, especially in the 1990s, forced movement, do not have identity documents. When they give birth in Serbia, the registrars refuse to register the birth. The provision we are attacking gives them legal cover: it vaguely allows registrars to delay birth registration for an indefinite period to verify the details to be entered in the register of births. We think this is contrary to the human right of every child to be registered immediately after birth and to have a name and a legal personality. We submitted our initiative on 7 March 2016. You can find an English version of it here.
On 12 September 2016 the Constitutional Court rejected the petition, essentially reasoning that there was no problem with the legislation in the abstract. An English translation of the judgment we prepared can be found here.
The ERRC has a longstanding paralegal project working with Roma to secure identity documents. The ERRC is supporting the paralegals and a local lawyer to litigate some of the trickier cases, with a view to exposing and eliminating obstacles that leave Roma without documents and, in some cases, vulnerable to statelessness.