Roma Experience Difficulties in Accessing Personal Documents in Serbia and Montenegro
29 October 2003
ERRC research, conducted in partnership with the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Minority Rights Center (MRC) in Serbia and Montenegro, has revealed that Roma encounter many obstacles to obtaining personal documents, the lack of which, in turn, threatens their ability to access other fundamental rights and freedoms. Ms Violeta Radosavlje-vić, a Romani woman from the Kijevo Romani settlement on the outskirts of Belgrade, testified to the ERRC/MRC that she did not have a birth certificate and therefore could not obtain a personal identification card (ID card). Ms Radosavljević stated, "It is as if I do not exist". Ms Radosavljević reported that in March 1996, she went to the Voždovac Police Station to inquire about obtaining her personal documents. Ms Rado-savljević was told that she must prove that she is legally registered at the house in which she lives. Ms Radosavljević told the ERRC/MRC that she cannot because the house is formally registered in the name of her deceased father, and the title to the property had never been transferred to her name. Ms Rado-savljević, unaware of how to effect the transfer of the property's title into her name, stated that the employees at the Voždovac Police Station were unwilling to inform her of the proper procedure. Ms Radosavljević stated that because she did not have personal documents, she could not access state-provided medical insurance. When her son was born, Ms Rado-savljević testified, she was forced to use her sister's medical insurance card because she could not afford to pay the hospital fee for the delivery. Her son is therefore registered as her sister's son. Ms Radosavljević's common law husband, Mr Miroslav Arnautović, cannot get a medical card for their son, who is now sick, because the boy is not registered in his documents. The family reportedly could not afford to purchase all of the medication necessary for the boy because Mr Arnautović earned only 5,500 Yugoslavian dinars (approximately 85 Euro) per month. Ms Radosavljević told the ERRC/MRC that she and Mr Arnautović had not been able to legally marry because they did not have the required personal documents, and she had also been denied access to social benefits.
In another case, Mr Fatmir Kriezi, a 30-year-old Romani man from Kačanik, Kosovo, born in Skopje, Macedonia and now living in Leskovac, southern Serbia, informed the ERRC/MRC that he, his wife, Ms Aslani Sadet (a Romani woman also living in Kosovo but born in Macedonia) and their seven children have experienced many difficulties in accessing their personal documents. According to Mr Kriezi, all of his and his wife's personal documents were originally issued in Macedonia and, after the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, they had problems attaining citizenship in Serbia and Montenegro. In 1995, Mr Kriezi was able to register his birth in the Municipality of Kačanik because both of his parents were registered there. He was also issued an identification card and a passport in Uroševac, Kosovo, for which he submitted his Macedonian birth certificate. Mr Kriezi informed the ERRC/MRC that in 1996, his wife was refused registration as a citizen of Macedonia, and told that she would have to wait five or six years for this. Ms Kriezi was subsequently issued a certificate, which states that she is not registered in the Macedonian Book of Citizens. Mr and Ms Kriezi's seven children are all registered in the Book of Citizens of Serbia and Montenegro. However, when the Kriezi family moved to Belgrade in 1999, because of the war, citizenship certificates were only issued for three of their children, while Mr Kriezi and two of the other children were refused citizenship certificates. The two children born after the family moved to Belgrade were issued birth certificates confirming that they are citizens of Serbia and Montenegro. Ms Kriezi was refused because she could not produce the certificate that states she is not a citizen of Macedonia as it had been left behind when the family fled Kosovo. A representative of the Ministry of the Interior informed Mr Kriezi that the Ministry of the Interior had made a mistake in issuing his passport in 1995, and that he had to go to the Municipality of Kačanik to fix it because he had submitted his Macedonian birth certificate at the time. He was also told that his ID card was invalid. The family then got application forms for the registration of their citizenship from the Kačanik Municipal Office, which they submitted with all the required information. The family also registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs) with the Serbia and Montenegro's Commissariat for Refugees and Displaced Persons, after Mr Kriezi and Ms Nada Janković gave statements about the children's births at the Municipality of Čukarica in Belgrade. At the time of the interview, Mr Kriezi informed the ERRC/MRC that the family had secured all of their documents. Mr Kriezi told the ERRC/MRC that while his family did not have basic personal documents, they had been unable to register a formal residence, access social benefits and enrol their children in kindergarten.