In 2011, the Republic of Serbia, which is a party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, expressed a growing interest in combating statelessness, resulting in a range of concrete activities and legislative amendments implemented under the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, the Ombudsman and UNHCR Representation in Serbia. As a result, more efficient procedures were adopted and implemented, the practice of the registrars, police officers and social workers throughout the country harmonized and the number of Roma at risk of statelessness decreased1.
In 2014, the UNHCR launched the global #IBelong campaign to eradicate statelessness by 2024 – Ending statelessness within 10 years. The Global Action Plan to End Statelessness: 2014 – 2024 (GAP), developed in consultations with States, civil society and international organisations, recommends 10 actions to end statelessness within 10 years. These actions seek to resolve existing cases of statelessness, prevent new ones from emerging and to strengthen the identification and protection of stateless populations.
As part of its global mandate on statelessness, UNHCR in the Republic of Serbia has been carrying out activities aimed at preventing and eradicating statelessness since 2004. In Serbia, this phenomenon particularly affects the Roma population. Over the past decade, UNHCR has carried three surveys to collect representative data about the extent of statelessness in the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) population living in informal settlements in Serbia (in 2010, 2015 and 2020).
The most recent survey Persons at Risk of Statelessness, Overview of the Current Situation and the Way to Move Forward was conducted in October 2020. The sample included 1,807 households with a total of 9,218 persons. It showed that informal settlements were home to 253 persons without birth registration; 275 without confirmed Serbian citizenship; 1,032 persons without personal identity cards; and 2,072 without registered permanent or temporary residence.
Given that 252 households include 359 members who lack at least one personal document that may or does result in statelessness, it follows that 3.8 percent (2,139) of those living in informal settlements are at risk of statelessness.
The progress evident since the 2015 Survey shows that the joint efforts of the Government, UNHCR and human rights civil society organisations to address this issue are bearing fruit. This being said there is still room for enhancing the situation of the Roma community and reducing the incidence of the risk of statelessness.
In view of the progress made to date, the Republic of Serbia is amongst the countries that can eradicate statelessness by 2024, or even earlier. UNHCR and its partners remain committed to supporting further positive developments especially regarding action 6 (Grant protection status to stateless migrants and facilitate their naturalization) and action 7 (Ensure birth registration for the prevention of statelessness) of the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness: 2014 – 2024
1 UNHCR’s survey Persons at Risk of Statelessness in Serbia – Progress Report 2010 – 2015 counted a 43% decrease in persons without basic identity documents amongst Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in Serbia (from 6.8% in 2010 to 3.9% in 2015).