Ukrainian Roma At Risk of Statelessness Amidst Rising Violence & Racism

Odessa, Budapest 24 September 2018: Roma in Ukraine caught between rising violence in the country, institutional racism, and state policy failings are being further marginalised by the risk of statelessness - warns a report by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), European Network on Statelessness (ENS), Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, and Ukrainian civic organisation Desyate Kvitnya.

The organisations call for improved accessibility to services for Roma, and a simplification of bureaucratic structures which deny Roma their right to a nationality.

The findings of the human rights organisations were presented today at an event in Odessa attended by government ministers, UN officials, and Romani people affected by the risk of statelessness. The joint research shows how pervasive negative stereotypes against Roma make them vulnerable to the risk of statelessness in Ukraine, and how statelessness exacerbates the multiple types of discrimination faced by Romani people in the country.

The report is the result of the #RomaBelong joint initiative that aims to better understand and address Romani statelessness (and risk of statelessness) in European Union candidate and neighbourhood countries in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia), and Ukraine. The research was carried out 2016 – 2017 and involved extended interviews with Roma, government officials, activists, NGOs, and UN agencies.

Discrimination is both a cause and a consequence of statelessness amongst Roma in Ukraine. This is further exacerbated by a lack of engagement from Ukrainian authorities on the issue of statelessness, and indeed on the general welfare of Romani people as a national ethnic minority. In the context of rising violence against Roma by far-right organisations, it is worrying to see this level of state disengagement with the problems faced by Romani people in regards to discrimination, poverty and statelessness.

The absence of data related to both statelessness, and the Roma population, is symptomatic of the invisibility of the issue in Ukraine.  The organisations found few successful efforts by Ukrainian authorities to address the systemic lack of documentation and permanent residence that many Roma are forced to live with. Additionally, burdensome bureaucracy disproportionately disadvantages Roma, and inadequate policy framework in Ukraine undermines full implementation of Ukraine’s international and national legal obligations related to non-discrimination, birth registration, the right to nationality, the identification and protection of stateless persons, and the prevention of statelessness.

The cycle of discrimination, poverty and statelessness severely impacts on Romani children, who inherit these problems and are often left to grow up without a nationality, struggling to access key services such as education, healthcare and housing.

“My children cannot go to school and study without documents. I do not want them to be illiterate as I am.” said 44-year-old Anastasiia, a Romani woman from Odessa who was interviewed during the research. “Some people want to evict me from here and expel from the house. ‘We will take you to the field with your children and you will be sitting there’, - they say. But what I can do and where I can go?”

In light of the research findings, the organisations make two immediate recommendations: simplify the procedures to confirm Ukrainian citizenship, and make birth registration and documentation procedures easily accessible to all. Currently there seems to be no urgency in Ukraine to tackle prejudice and discrimination, from which many of these problems arise. Until a commitment is made to meaningfully engage with the underlying marginalisation and persecution of this ethnic minority, statelessness in Ukraine will continue to be an issue which plagues Roma.

For media inquiries or to arrange an interview contact:

European Roma Rights Centre

Jonathan Lee, Communications Officer, jonathan.lee@errc.org, +36 30 500 2118 or Nicole Garbin, Lawyer, nicole.garbin@errc.org, +36 30 950 0723

European Network on Statelessness

Jan Brulc, Head of Communications, jan.brulc@statelessness.eu  +44 7522 525673 

Institute of Statelessness and Inclusion

Amal de Chickera, ISI Co-Director, amal.dechickera@institutesi.org

NOTES TO EDITOR:

1. The report “Statelessness, Discrimination and Marginalisation of Roma in Ukraine” is available online in English and Ukrainian.

2. A stateless person is someone who has no nationality. Statelessness is a legal anomaly that affects over half a million people in Europe - both recent migrants and those who have lived in the same place for generations – denying many their fundamental rights, such as access to healthcare, education, legal employment, to register the birth of their children and to travel. Without these things, stateless people face a lifetime of obstacles. Minorities such as Roma are especially at risk of statelessness. Many thousands in the region lack birth certificates or any other state recognition putting them at risk of statelessness, unable to prove their nationality.

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