I don’t feel like a foreigner here

Twenty-nine year old Sutki Sokolovski has been stateless since birth. His tragic story, complicated by many difficult life events, started with a blank citizenship field in his birth certificate which would cause many missed opportunities later in his life. Sutki was born in Skopje to a stateless mother who left him to be raised by his grandmother until he was 9 years old. Unrecognized by his father, he was then left to grow up in an orphanage when his grandmother remarried. He spent his adolescent years living in the streets and in centres for homeless persons, all the while earning his living and acquiring work skills washing and repairing cars.

Several carwash and repair services have showed interest in hiring him, but long-term employment for Sutki without citizenship has been unachievable since he has an ID for foreigners which he renews every year. The expiry date of his ID card is also an expiry date for any work contract Sutki would sign.

“I don’t feel like a foreigner here. I have many friends who have Macedonian citizenship. We socialize, we hang out together. Sometimes, I feel a bit stupid when I have to apply for an ID for foreigners and I don’t feel like one, but there is nothing I can change about my situation.”

UNHCR Skopje, through its legal aid partner the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, provides free legal aid to Sutki and other persons who are stateless or at risk of statelessness in the country with the goal to end statelessness and the problems that go along with it. With a citizenship, people like Sutki can live full lives, without the fear of creating a family and putting their children at risk of statelessness, and have full access to rights, enabling them to actively participate and contribute to the society they have always lived in by engaging in long-term employment, taking loans to improve their lives, planning for the future, etc.

Now, Sutki is a father of a smiling 5-year-old girl, and his wife is expecting their second child. He and his wife, a fYR Macedonian citizen, got married this year after 9 years together and now for the first time Sutki will be able to benefit from his wife’s health insurance. According to the national legislation regulating the acquisition of citizenship, after three years of marriage to a citizen, Sutki will be granted citizenship.

The difficult past has been deeply ingrained in Sutki’s experience and fears, especially about passing on his greatest problem to his children – statelessness: “My name does not show on the birth certificate of my child. This is because I am afraid that my child will face the same problems that I have if my name appears on the document. I don’t want to risk the future of my child.”

Optimistic about the future, Sutki looks forward to the moment when he is recognized as a citizen: “I will be able to officially recognize and register my children. I will be able to be employed and have social security. I will be able to get a passport and travel. […] All roads will be open to me.”