The UNHCR Representation in Bosnia and Herzegovina organizes the Round Table on ending statelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina
A lot of common work has already been invested in resolving the cases of risk of statelessness. Still, one final effort is needed to be able to say that the issue of statelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina could be fully resolved by the end of the iBelong campaign, was one of the conclusions of the Roundtable on ending statelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina organized today in Sarajevo by UNHCR.
Since 2014, when UNHCR launched the #IBelong campaign, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has made significant strides in resolving the issue of statelessness, reducing the number of stateless persons, or those who do not have citizenship. The purpose of the round table is to identify the remaining obstacles to resolving the issue of statelessness in BiH.
“Cooperation with institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina has had a high level of success so far, however, wide participation from key sectors for the resolution of statelessness would contribute to the discussion on today’s topic, which is to take stock of what remains to be done to end statelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the remaining two and a half years to the end of the iBelong campaign”, said Lucie Gagné, UNHCR Representative in BiH.
“I believe that by bringing BiH authorities to the same table, in order to ensure that everyone shares their views and the same goal, it is possible for all persons at risk of statelessness in BiH to find solutions to their cases.” Ms. Gagné added.
UNHCR’s Global Campaign to End Statelessness, iBelong, was launched in 2014 with an aim to end statelessness in ten years. Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with many other countries, decided, with the support of UNHCR, to end Statelessness by the end of 2024.
In 2019, the BiH authorities made a number of important pledges at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness, organized to mark the mid-point of the iBelong campaign.
The pledges included commitments to improve birth registration and the issuance of nationality documents. Since then, a lot of work has been done to identify both persons at risk of statelessness and the factors that cause the risk of statelessness.
With the help of the partner organization “Vaša prava BiH,” UNHCR provided legal assistance to stateless persons and since 2008, a total of 1,850 persons have been assisted in the process of registration of births and citizenships and obtaining all necessary identification documents to request or confirm their citizenship.
Given the small number of people, mostly in Roma communities, who are at risk of becoming stateless, with some improvements in the legal framework and practices in the field of registration of births and citizenship, it is to be expected that BiH will achieve this goal.
However, it is very important to ensure timely birth registration of all children in the registry books in order to prevent the new phenomenon of Statelessness in the future. Without birth registration, children do not have full access to education, documents and health care, including vaccination against COVID-19.
The Round Table gathered representatives from the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in charge of citizenship, birth and civil registration, guardianship, and free legal aid, the Institution of Ombudsmen for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNICEF, OSCE, and the Association Vasa Prava BiH.