Minister of State Administration and Local Self-Government, Marija Obradović, Deputy Ombudsman Jelena Stojanović and the Representative of the UN Refugee Agency in Serbia, Francesca Bonelli signed today the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on continuation of cooperation towards eradicating statelessness in Serbia.
The aim of the MOU is to intensify the hitherto cooperation, and for all the three institutions to continue investing joint efforts to resolve the outstanding problems that the members of Roma ethnic minority and other persons face in exercising the right to birth registration and other personal status-related rights, with a special focus on registration of their new born children into birth registries.
Recognising the problems faced by the members of Roma national minority who lack personal documentation, the Republic of Serbia has been investing intensive efforts – since 2012 – to remove numerous obstacles for these particularly vulnerable members of the society. Within the frameworks of two former MoUs between the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Ombudsman and UNHCR, and through joint efforts of all the relevant state institutions, the Republic of Serbia introduced and implemented a series of legislative changes to ease registration in birth registries, confirmation of nationality, residence registration and the issuance of personal documents. This was followed by capacity building activities that harmonized practice of all the actors at the local level (registrars, police officers, social welfare workers, health workers, free legal aid providers etc) end brought remarkable results that made Serbia example of good practice in the region.
Signing the Memorandum of Understanding on continued cooperation in this area, Minister Obradović stated: ” The institutions in Serbia have worked hard to resolve the problems of ”legally invisible persons“, and to improve the legal framework thus creating mechanisms for unimpeded registration into birth registries, in particular of the children of undocumented parents. This ensured legal security for these children as well as for the entire system. In cooperation with the Ombudsman and UNHCR, special focus was placed on resolving the problems of one of the most vulnerable groups – the Roma population and on improvement of other personal status-related rights. I am happy that the data of UNHCR survey on frequency of occurrence of statelessness among the Roma, Ashkali and Eqyptians in informal settlements in Serbia showed that the cases of persons not being registered in birth registries happen only exceptionally. This MOU will provide a possibility for us to eradicate statelessness in Serbia completely by end 2024”.
Jelena Stojanović, Deputy Ombudsman stated that this institution pays special attention to the protection of the rights of members of Roma national minority and that the Ombudsman visited tens of Roma settlements in the previous years to get acquainted with the challenges they face and provide tangible assistance.
”It is very important for the Roma community that exercise of the right to personal documents remains in focus of the authorities. I expect that the issue of legally invisible persons will be completely resolved through implementation of the third Memorandum of Understanding”, Stojanović said.
„Today, 1000 days before the end of IBelong, UNHCR’s global campaign to end statelessness in the world, the UN Refugee Agency is particularly happy to continue the successful cooperation with the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Protector of Citizens formalised in this third Memorandum of Understanding” noted Francesca Bonelli, the Representative of UNHCR in Serbia “Through joint efforts, we aim to resolve the outstanding problems of persons at risk of statelessness living in informal settlements who still lack the full set of personal documents. The estimated number of persons at risk of statelessness has decreased from some 30,000 in 2010 to some 2,000 in 2022. This makes us confident that the Republic of Serbia will be one of the countries to eradicate statelessness and fulfill the objectives in the next 1000 days left until the end of the global UNHCR IBelong campaign seeking to end statelessness in the world by November 2024,” Bonelli added.
The Republic of Serbia is a signatory of the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, the 1961 Convention on Reduction of Statelessness as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
For more information, please contact:
Ministry of State Administration and Local Government
Press MDULS, email: press.mduls.gov.rs
Protector of Citizens
Biljana Živančević, tel: 066 8768 587, email: [email protected]
UN High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR
Mirjana Milenkovski, tel: 063 275 154, email: [email protected]