Macedonia

The Republic of Macedonia’s legal framework enshrines some basic protections against arbitrary detention, and some safeguards to prevent and reduce statelessness. However, although it is state party to the 1954 Convention, there is no mechanism by which statelessness can be identified or determined, and no stateless protection status. The only routes to regularisation for a stateless person are to apply for temporary residence as a ‘foreigner’ at the discretion of the government or to apply for asylum, both providing only very limited rights. There are some protections in law from arbitrary detention, including the right to free legal aid and effective remedies to challenge detention, but people detained are often not made aware of their rights in practice.

There is a provision in law for children born on the territory to stateless parents or parents of unknown citizenship to automatically acquire Macedonian nationality, but this focuses on the status of the parents rather than the statelessness of the child, so does not prevent statelessness in all cases. There are safeguards in law to prevent statelessness among foundlings and children born to Macedonian nationals abroad. Although not set in law, there is good practice of protecting Macedonian children adopted abroad from statelessness. However, there remain significant barriers to universal birth registration. The country has received four Universal Periodic Review recommendations on this issue and there is strong evidence that Roma, Ashkaeli and Egyptian communities are disproportionately impacted.

Last updated: 
Dec 2017
Next scheduled update: 
Dec 2018
Country expert(s): 

Martina Smilevska-Kcheva, Macedonian Young Lawyers Association

ASSESSMENT KEY

++POSITIVE
+ SOMEWHAT POSITIVE
+-POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
- SOMEWHAT NEGATIVE
--NEGATIVE

ADDITIONAL INFO

-NORMS & GOOD PRACTICE

 

International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are state party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

The Republic of Macedonia’s record on international and regional treaties is relatively good, in that it is party to the 1954 Convention and most other relevant international and regional treaties, including the European Convention on Nationality. However, the most significant gap is that it is not state party to the 1961 Convention nor to the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.

  • The Republic of Macedonia is state party to the 1954 Convention with no reservations and direct effect.
  • The Republic of Macedonia is not state party to the 1961 Convention.
  • The Republic of Macedonia is state party to all the other relevant regional and international treaties, except for the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • The Republic of Macedonia is not bound by the EU Returns Directive as it is not a member state of the European Union.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are sufficient measures in place to count stateless persons in detention.

The Republic of Macedonia collects some limited data on statelessness. It includes a category ‘without citizenship’ in its census, and census data is disaggregated. However, the census was last carried out in 2002 so is out of date and it does not include people whose births are not registered. Other government departments use potentially overlapping categories, such as ‘unknown nationality’. The government does not publish data on refugees and asylum seekers, nor on stateless people in detention. UNHCR carried out a mapping study of statelessness among Roma, Ashkaeli and Egyptian communities in 2011, covering 70% of the territory.

  • The Republic of Macedonia includes a category of 'without citizenship' in its census, but the last census was carried out in 2002 and published in 2005, so data is now outdated. At the time, 17,652 people were recorded in this category. The census data is disaggregated by ethnicity but it does not include those whose births are not registered. 
  • The Ministry of Interior uses the potentially overlapping category of 'unknown nationality' in its data collection, but does not publish these figures.
  • UNHCR figures for 'persons at risk of statelessness' in the country are available. As of April 2017, there were 597 people (of which 273 had unregulated citizenship and 324 undetermined Macedonian nationality).
  • UNHCR carried out a survey to map (risk of) statelessness among Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in 2011, which covered 70% of the territory.
  • There is no data available on stateless refugees or asylum seekers in the country.
  • The Republic of Macedonia does not count or publish data on stateless persons in detention.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a dedicated statelessness determination (SDP) procedure; or, if not, whether there are other procedures or mechanisms by which statelessness can be identified and status determined. Countries are subdivided in four groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP in place (Group 1), those with other administrative procedures (Group 2), those with a status but no clear mechanism (Group 3), and those without any status or mechanism (Group 4). Where a procedure exists, this is assessed against good practice, and the rights granted to recognised stateless people are examined.

The Republic of Macedonia does not have a legal framework in place to protect stateless people. There is no mechanism to identify or determine statelessness and no stateless protection status, so it falls within Group 4. The only route to regularisation for stateless people in the country is an application for a temporary residence permit as a ‘foreigner’ at the discretion of the government or a claim for asylum. Rights given to those granted temporary residence are limited to primary education and a right to apply for citizenship after six years’ legal residence. Access to healthcare may be possible, but health insurance is required. Police checks on foreigners are frequent.

  • There is no mechanism to identify or determine statelessness in the Republic of Macedonia and no stateless protection status.
  • Stateless people in the Republic of Macedonia may regularise their stay and obtain a temporary residence permit as a 'foreigner' at the discretion of the government on a case-by-case basis, dependent on the documentation available.
  • If granted a temporary residence permit as a ‘foreigner’, a stateless person will have very limited rights, including the right to primary education. It is necessary to have health insurance to access healthcare and police checks are regularly carried out on ‘foreigners’.
  • Stateless people (and refugees) may apply for naturalisation after six years' legal residence, which is accelerated in comparison to other 'foreigners'. However, other conditions must be met and birth registration documentation is required.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, but focusing on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as detention decision-making, how alternatives to detention are legislated for and implemented, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight and effective remedies, as well as protections on release.

There is a basic legal framework for immigration detention in the Republic of Macedonia, however, there are few protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people and recent practice suggests detention may go beyond the purposes permitted under ECHR 5(1)(f). Statelessness is not a juridically relevant fact in the decision to detain and there is no requirement to define a country of removal. There are no alternatives to detention prescribed in law and no information on how other less coercive measures are considered; nor are there periodic reviews of the decision to detain. There is a time limit on detention and remedies available in law, but detainees are not made aware of them in practice. No documentation is issued on release leaving most with no rights (except primary education) and exposed to re-detention, unless they apply for asylum or a temporary residence permit.

  • The legal framework in the Republic of Macedonia restricts immigration detention to the purposes under ECHR Article 5(1)(f), however, recent practice suggests that detention may go beyond these purposes, including to secure witness statements against people-smugglers.
  • There is no requirement to identify a proposed country of removal prior to detention.
  • There is no information on whether stateless people are detained in practice.
  • Statelessness is not a juridically relevant fact in decisions to detain.
  • A vulnerability assessment is not undertaken as part of the decision to detain and statelessness is not considered as giving rise to vulnerability, but a basic vulnerability assessment is carried out in practice on entering detention.
  • There are no alternatives to detention prescribed in Macedonian law.
  • If a foreigner has their own means of subsistence and does not require accommodation in the ‘Reception Centre for Foreigners’, the Ministry of Interior has the legal possibility to limit their movement and require them to report to a police station, but this measure has never been used in practice. There is also a safe house for people subject to detention in the ‘Reception Centre for Foreigners’ who are assessed as ‘vulnerable’. This is managed by the Jesuit Refugee Service on behalf of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.
  • There is no evidence or information available on how alternatives to detention are considered in practice or whether immigration detention is the default.
  • There is a time limit of 24 hours for temporary detention prior to an immediate deportation. A person can also be temporarily detained until the reasons preventing their deportation cease to exist or if they have no valid or recognised travel documents for up to 12 months.
  • There are remedies available to challenge detention within eight days of receipt of the decision, but in practice, detainees are usually not aware of this remedy.
  • The law provides for detainees to be informed about their right to legal assistance and to contact their embassy, but they are not informed of this in practice.
  • The law also provides for detainees to receive a written explanation of the reasons for detention in a language they understand, but in practice, this is issued in Macedonian. Detainees are not provided with information about their rights, contact details of organisations providing support, or the right to appeal the detention decision.
  • There are no regular periodic reviews of the necessity for the continuation of detention by judicial or other bodies.
  • There are no rules in place governing the process of re-documentation and ascertaining nationality.
  • No identification is issued upon release from detention, so people are exposed to re-detention.
  • People without documentation have very few rights in the Republic of Macedonia, aside from access to primary education. In practice, many former detainees enter the asylum system and thus secure additional rights as asylum seekers under the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection and the Constitution, such as the right to basic healthcare and work in the Asylum Reception Centre (or other place of accommodation determined by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy), and access to the labour market after one year if their claim for international protection has not been resolved.
  • There is no information available on whether the cumulative time spent in detention counts towards the maximum time limit.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, and measures taken by states to promote birth registration among groups at high risk of remaining unregistered.

Macedonian law contains some partial safeguards against childhood statelessness, but there are gaps. There is a safeguard for children born on the territory to stateless (or of unknown citizenship) parents to automatically acquire citizenship, but this focuses on the status of the parents rather than the statelessness of the child, so does not cover children born to parents who may have a nationality but cannot confer this to their child. The provision also only applies to minors, which is a lower standard than in the 1961 Convention. Children adopted by or born abroad to Macedonian nationals are protected from statelessness, as are foundlings. There is no legal provision preventing statelessness in the case of a Macedonian child adopted abroad, though a safeguard is applied in policy and practice. There are significant barriers to birth registration, which impact disproportionately on Roma, Ashkaeli and Egyptian communities. The process relies on parents presenting at a registry office and being documented. Late registration is possible in law but is a very cumbersome procedure in practice that presents insurmountable barriers, particularly for marginalised communities. Four Universal Periodic Review recommendations have been received by the country on the issue of access to birth registration.

  • There is a provision in law for children born on the territory to stateless parents or parents of unknown citizenship to automatically acquire citizenship, but this focuses on the status of the parents rather than the statelessness of the child, so does not cover children born to parents who may have a nationality but cannot confer this to their child.
  • As there is no procedure for determining statelessness in Macedonia, proving the statelessness of the parents can be very challenging in practice.
  • The law stipulates that only children can benefit from the provision, so this is interpreted as under 18 years-old, leaving a protection gap for young adults.
  • There is a provision in law for foundlings to automatically be granted citizenship.
  • The law refers to children, so this is interpreted as under 18 years-old.
  • Citizenship can only be withdrawn if parents are identified and can confer their citizenship to the child, and this would not leave the child stateless.
  • Although not required by law, any loss of nationality through adoption is prevented in practice by the competent authority requiring from the adoptive parents a guarantee of acquisition of another nationality by the child. The renunciation of nationality can be revoked if the child does not acquire the other nationality.
  • The state provides for acquisition of its nationality by a foreign child adopted by its nationals.
  • A child born abroad to a Macedonian national acquires the parent's nationality automatically, but the birth must be registered by the parent with the consular authorities. Between the age of 18-23 years, the child can register themselves as a Macedonian national with the competent authority.
  • The conditions of acquisition are not discriminatory.
  • The law provides for immediate (within 15 days) birth registration and hospitals must report births to the civil registration office. However, parents must present at the civil registration office within two months of the birth to complete the registration, register the name of the child, and obtain the birth certificate.
  • Formal proof of the civil status and identity of both parents is required by law to complete the registration of the child's personal name at the registry office, but there are no detailed legislative provisions precisely defining the documentary evidence to be produced by parents, so requirements vary according to the municipality registry officer and the kinds of evidence requested is left to their discretion. The law allows officials to require evidence for administrative procedures on the basis of their free assessment and evidential requirements for unmarried parents are particularly cumbersome. In some cases, where several years have passed from the birth of a child, the parents need to obtain DNA analysis as evidence, which presents an additional and financially costly burden.
  • As such, there are credible reports of births not being registered due to lack of documentation. Roma, Ashkaeli and Egyptian communities are disproportionately affected by lack of birth registration to due a range of factors, including inability to meet documentary evidence requirements, discriminatory attitudes of registry officials, and poverty and marginalisation.
  • There are credible reports by lawyers that medical authorities are being required to report undocumented parents to the immigration authorities in practice.
  • The country has received four Universal Periodic Review recommendations on the issue of access to birth registration.
  • The law provides that after 30 days, the birth can only be registered through a procedure for subsequent birth registration on the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The law does not set out what evidence is required from the parents.
  • Late birth registration is possible in practice, but it is a very cumbersome administrative procedure that puts additional requirements on the parents. They must pay 250 MKD (4 Euros) for the procedure and present additional documents at the discretion of the registry official, including: ID cards; marriage certificate (or birth certificates if not married); medical certificate of birth (if born in hospital) or  vaccination certificate (if born at home); paediatrician certificate; certificate for education (if the child attends school, if not, notary verified statement from the parents that the child does not attend school and why); and in some cases, additional notary verified statements or DNA analysis confirming paternity.
  • Such requirements are extremely difficult to meet and risk of births remaining unregistered therefore impacts disproportionately on marginalised communities, including, in particular, Roma, Ashkaeli and Egyptians.
  • The Government has undertaken birth registration promotion campaigns in the past including through working with different stakeholders to cover the costs of late registration and address individual cases with the collaboration of NGOs. There are no current programmes in place.
  • Low rates of birth registration have been recorded among Roma, Ashkaeli and Egyptian populations and there are credible reports that sections of these communities remain unregistered.

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