Serbia may eradicate statelessness within a few years

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Belgrade, 02 November 2018 – Serbia has made excellent progress in the prevention and reduction of statelessness. Should it decide to enact a few outstanding strategic measures stipulated in the Global Action Plan for Eradication of Statelessness, the Republic of Serbia could eliminate statelessness completely within a couple of years, concluded a UNHCR-organised conference today.

The conference “Combating Statelessness in Serbia – Achievements and the Way Forward” was organized to mark the fourth anniversary of the global #IBelong Campaign under which states try to eradicate all statelessness around the world by 2024.

Opening the conference, Branko Ružić, Minister of State Administration and Local Self-Government stated “I am very grateful to UNHCR and the civil sector for their long-standing support in resolving this important issue. Though we have been commended as best practice example in resolving the personal status of Roma, we must now focus on increasing employment of this minority community. We have a good legislative framework for that aspect as well”.

”This campaign and the results have shown the significance and value of cooperation, since it was key to efficient resolution of the problem. The general benefit is that we have helped identify the the citizens living on the territory of Serbia, their rights and obligations“ added Robert Sepi, Deputy Ombudsman.

Thanks to the excellent cooperation and the efforts of the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, numerous national and local authorities, the Ombudsman, the UN Refugee Agency and specialised civil society organisations, Serbia introduced and implemented many legislative changes facilitating the process of registration into birth registries and issuance of personal documents, and confirming the citizenship of many persons whose ancestors had been living in Serbia for generations. Many persons who previously could not solve it despite for generations having lived in Serbia obtained citizenship through the cooperation and coordinated activities of the civil sector and the Ministry of Interior. As a consequence, the number of persons at-risk-of-statelessness in Serbia decreased by 43% in the period 2010 - 2015.

Commenting on the progress made and on how good models to reduce and prevent statelessness developed in Serbia have already been used by governments and authorities elsewhere in the region and beyond, the participants of the conference noted that the prevention of statelessness remains important in Serbia and that the momentum achieved must be used to resolve outstanding challenges in the near future.

Thanking all authorities and other partners, the UNHCR Representative Hans Friedrich Schodder concluded “Depriving fellow humans from exercising basic rights without any fault or control of their own, statelessness is a scourge that can and must be eradicated. Today we should be proud of having worked together very well to get very close to this aim. The UN Refugee Agency remains committed to do its utmost to support you to completely eradicate the occurrence and re-occurrence of statelessness in Serbia.”