Moldova

Law, policy and practice on the protection of stateless people and prevention and reduction of statelessness is generally positive in Moldova. The country’s record on treaty accession is good and it has established a dedicated Statelessness Determination Procedure (SDP) in law. The SDP is accessible, with a mandatory interview, an option to initiate the procedure ex officio, and some rights are granted to applicants. People recognised as stateless in Moldova are granted rights in line with nationals (except for political rights). Although there is an accelerated route to naturalisation, reduced from ten years, a stateless person must still wait eight years before being eligible to apply for naturalisation.

Moldovan law provides for detention to be used only as a last resort and a country of removal must be set prior to detention for removal. There are partial safeguards in nationality law to prevent statelessness and the Moldovan legal framework provides for universal birth registration. However, access to birth registration and a birth certificate is hindered in practice by the requirement that parents must be documented to register a birth, with some communities at higher risk of remaining unregistered, including Roma.

Last updated: 
Mar 2020
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2021
Country expert(s): 

Additional resources

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.

Moldova is party to most relevant international and regional instruments, including the four core statelessness instruments. It is one of very few countries to have acceded to the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession. Moldova does retain some reservations to the 1954 Convention, but these no longer have substantive effect as domestic law grants all convention rights to people recognised as stateless.

  • Moldova is state party to the 1954 Convention and it has direct effect.
  • Moldova maintains reservations to several articles (23, 24, 25, 27 and 31) but these no longer have substantive effect, as domestic law grants all convention rights to recognised stateless persons.
  • Moldova is state party to the 1961 Convention with no reservations and it has direct effect.
  • Moldova is state party to all other relevant regional and international treaties (except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers) with some reservations, including to the European Convention on Nationality and European Convention on Human Rights, but these do not have a substantive impact on statelessness.
  • Moldova is not a member state of the European Union, but its domestic law partially implements EU Directives, including the EU Returns Directive.

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 effective measures in place to count stateless people in detention.

Disaggregated data on the stateless population in Moldova is limited. The authorities record figures on people recognised as stateless but do not publish these. Data on detention is also not published. There are some problems with the way official data is collected, including that there are overlapping categories, such as ‘people with USSR passports’ and people with ‘undetermined citizenship’. No data is available for the disputed Transnistria region.

  • The Bureau of Migration and Asylum (BMA) and the Public Services Agency record the number of people recognised as stateless in Moldova, but this data is not routinely published.
  • Figures for the year-end 2019 were provided by UNHCR: 1899 stateless people (1113 women and 786 men) were registered in the Government database including 1394 stateless people who were recorded as living in Transnistria. The data is also disaggregated by ethnicity:  843 Russians, 543 Ukrainians, 284 Moldovans, 31 Belarusians, 38 Bulgarians, 10 Tatars, 14 Azerbaijanis, 11 Armenians, and less than 10 from other ethnicities.
  • At the end of 2019, 1601 people were registered in the Government database as people ‘with undetermined citizenship’. Data on refugees and asylum seekers is not published, but the Government shares monthly reports with UNHCR, and no stateless refugees or asylum seekers have been recorded.
  • Data on stateless people entering or leaving immigration detention is not published by the Bureau of Migration and Asylum (BMA). If stateless people are identified in detention, they are referred to the statelessness determination procedure and released.
  • NGOs report that 47 people were released from detention between 2012-2019 due to impossibility of removal and transferred to the SDP.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination (SDP) procedure; or, if not, whether there are other procedures or mechanisms by which statelessness can be identified and legal status determined. Countries are subdivided in four groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP in place, those with other administrative procedures, those with a status but no clear mechanism, and those without any status or mechanism. Where a procedure and status exist, these are assessed against norms and good practice, and the rights granted to recognised stateless persons are examined.

Moldova established a dedicated SDP in law in 2011, which in many ways is an example of good practice. The procedure is accessible, with no fee or residence requirement, and can be initiated ex officio, in person, orally or in writing. The dedicated Statelessness Unit must examine claims within six months, free legal aid is provided by NGOs, an interview is mandatory, an interpreter can be arranged, and training is provided by UNHCR. The burden of proof is shared, and although not established in law, the standard of proof is the same as in the asylum procedure, and cross-referral between procedures is established. Applicants are protected from expulsion and have access to some basic rights, including the right to work; and there is an automatic right to appeal. People recognised as stateless are granted permanent residence and rights in line with nationals. Eligibility for naturalisation is reduced from the standard 10 years but stateless people must still wait eight years before being eligible for naturalisation.

  • The definition of a stateless person in national law is consistent with the 1954 Convention.
  • There is a dedicated statelessness determination procedure established in law.
  • The authority appointed to determine statelessness is the Statelessness Unit of the Bureau of Migration and Asylum (Ministry of Interior).
  • Statelessness determination is the specific objective of the procedure.
  • The procedure can be initiated ex officio or in person, orally or in writing. There is no application fee, residence requirement, nor time limit on when applications can be submitted.
  • By law, the application must be examined by the competent authority and an interview must take place within 15 working days of submitting the application.
  • There is no specific form for the initial application, but it must contain a clear and detailed description of facts and evidence to support the application. There is a mandatory interview, and the examiner completes all the paperwork during the interview.
  • If needed, an interpreter will be arranged.
  • UNHCR conducts training, roundtables and information sessions several times a year and there is good cooperation between the Government and legal aid providers and NGOs.
  • There are no targeted information campaigns for applicants on how to make an application.
  • There is cooperation between authorities and by law the authority without competence must refer the application to the competent authority.
  • The burden of proof is shared between the applicant and the state.
  • The standard of proof for the SDP is not established in law, but in practice, it is the same as in the asylum procedure.
  • There are protective measures in place for people with mental health care needs and unaccompanied minors; but not in relation to potential gender discrimination.
  • There is an internal instruction for the competent authority on how to determine statelessness, sources of evidence and procedures for gathering evidence, but this is not publicly available.
  • The law establishes that free legal aid should be provided for the administrative procedure. In practice, this is provided by NGOs.
  • Interviews are mandatory, and translation and interpretation are offered for free if needed.
  • Access to UNHCR is provided, and UNHCR monitors the SDP and provides regular training.
  • Decisions are communicated in writing and negative decisions are reasoned.
  • Cross-referral mechanisms are in place to asylum procedures. The SDP is suspended if an asylum application is made and resumed if refugee (or subsidiary protection) status is refused.
  • An applicant for stateless status will be informed of their rights in writing in a language that they understand, and is entitled to: right to stay in Moldova during the assessment (except if national security or public order affected); a temporary identity document; to use their own language; to have an interpreter; to work; and to housing (but in practice, social housing is not available). Applicants also have access to social security entitlements, but only if they work.
  • The application must be examined within six months. This may be extended in complex cases, but not by more than six months (so the total does not exceed 12 months).
  • The applicant has automatic legal admission during the assessment and cannot be expelled.
  • If a person applies whilst in detention, the authorities will seek clarification from the supposed country of nationality. If their nationality is formally not recognised or the time limit for detention expires, they will be released. People who apply in the community will not be detained.
  • The applicant has an automatic right to appeal and there are no fees for the appeal.
  • The provision of free legal aid is established by law and provided by the state and NGOs for the judicial procedure.
  • There is no evidence of significant errors in decision making.
  • The state grants legal status and an indefinite right to stay to those recognised as stateless.
  • The rights attached to stateless status include travel documents, family reunion, work, primary, secondary and higher education in line with nationals, access to social security and healthcare.
  • Rights granted are on the same basis as nationals.
  • There are accelerated naturalisation procedures for recognised stateless people and refugees, who can apply for naturalisation after eight years compared to the standard 10 years, but there is no fee exemption nor waiver of language, citizenship test or minimum income level requirements. Although accelerated, eight years is a comparatively long residence requirement.
  • Naturalisation in Moldova costs 180 LEI (9 EUR) plus 140 LEI (7 EUR) processing fee. After naturalisation, to get an identity card costs 130 LEI (6.50 EUR) and a passport 850 LEI (42.50 EUR).
  • Criminal offences do not unreasonably prevent naturalisation (crimes listed as exemptions are international and military crimes, crimes against humanity, terrorism, prosecution or conviction for activities that endanger public order or national security).
  • Exclusion clauses for naturalisation also include if the person is ‘involved in activities that endanger the… health and morality of the population’.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, focusing in 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, whether 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 and whether statelessness is considered juridically relevant in bilateral return and readmission agreements.

There are several gaps in detention law, policy and practice in Moldova. Although there are some protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people, in that powers to detain are provided for in law, detention should be a last resort and a country of removal must be set prior to detaining; in practice, it is unclear how these principles are implemented. The maximum time limit differs for different types of detention, but there is no time limit for detention pending deportation following a criminal conviction. The provision of information to detainees on their rights is not set in law and is provided by UNHCR’s NGO partners at the discretion of the government. There are some remedies for detainees, but periodic judicial reviews were removed in 2016, although a 2018 advisory opinion of the Supreme Court requires this to be reinstated. People released from detention will either be transferred to the Statelessness Unit for documentation if recognised as stateless or granted ‘tolerated stay’ if not.

  • Powers for immigration detention are provided for in law.
  • A proposed country of removal must be identified during the administrative decision to remove, prior to the judicial decision to detain.
  • Statelessness is relevant in the decision to detain in that a recognised stateless person will not be detained. Referral to the SDP is possible from detention, though someone who applies from detention may remain detained until the proposed country of removal confirms they are not a national. Between 2012-2019, 47 people were released from detention into the SDP following confirmation they were not a national by the proposed country of removal.
  • By law detention should be the last resort, but in practice no alternatives exist, so it is unclear to what extent this is implemented.
  • Vulnerability assessments are carried out prior to the decision to detain, but statelessness is not considered during the assessment.
  • There are no alternatives to immigration detention established in law and alternatives are not considered in practice during decisions to detain.
  • Maximum periods of detention differ for different categories of detainee: 12 months for 'undesirable persons' (person whose resident permit has been cancelled with no right of return for five to 15 years); six months for people subject to removal procedures; no time limit for people subject to a deportation order following a criminal conviction.
  • The law provides that all administrative and judicial decisions must be given in writing.
  • People in detention are informed about their rights, including how to access the SDP and support, by an NGO implementing partner of UNHCR through an agreement with the authorities, but this service is discretionary and not funded by the government.
  • Up until December 2016 monthly judicial reviews of the necessity of detention were carried out, but following changes to legislation, the provision for regular periodic review of detention no longer exists in law. However, a 2018 Advisory Opinion of the Supreme Court of Justice requires this to be reinstated.
  • Free legal aid is provided to people in detention.
  • People in detention have the possibility to appeal against each court decision to detain. There are no provisions regarding the language of the appeals, but if the appeal is written in another language it must be translated into an official state language.
  • Released, undocumented stateless people are transferred to the Statelessness Unit to be provided with documentation.
  • Re-detention does not occur in practice so there is no accumulation of time spent in detention.
  • If the detention purpose cannot be fulfilled, the person is released and obtains 'tolerated stay' status, but few rights are conferred to someone with this status. However, there are no reported cases of stateless people ending up in this category.
  • The readmission of stateless people is provided for in several of the agreements that Moldova has entered into, including for example, with the European Union, Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Ukraine. Others, including the agreements with Albania and Switzerland, do not mention stateless people.
  • Very little information is available as to whether stateless people are readmitted under these agreements in practice and no monitoring information nor statistics are publicly available.

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, reduction measures taken by states to prevent statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions regarding withdrawal of nationality.

Moldovan nationality law previously contained full safeguards to prevent childhood statelessness, but amendments in 2018 increased the risk that children may be born stateless on the territory. Since 2018, children born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless may only acquire nationality automatically at birth if at least one of their parents has legal residence, international protection or stateless status. Foundlings automatically acquire nationality and children born to Moldovan parents acquire Moldovan nationality automatically. However, efforts to prevent statelessness in Moldova are hindered by barriers to universal free birth registration. At least the mother must be documented to register a birth, which means that some parents face barriers to registering births, including Roma and other minorities.

  • Children born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless automatically acquire Moldovan nationality by law only if at least one of their parents has legal residence, international protection or stateless status in Moldova.
  • The provision is automatic from birth, so children are not required to prove that they cannot access another nationality, nor meet any other requirements.
  • Foundlings are granted nationality automatically by law and there is no age limit.
  • Moldovan nationality cannot be withdrawn from a foundling if it would result in statelessness.
  • A child adopted by foreign parents cannot lose Moldovan nationality if this would lead to statelessness.
  • There is provision in law for a child adopted by Moldovan parents to acquire nationality, but they must opt for and apply for this, it is not automatic. There is no time limit.
  • In all cases the law provides for a child born to Moldovan parents anywhere to acquire nationality automatically.
  • The law provides for universal birth registration, irrespective of the parents' legal status, but it is not possible to complete the registration if parents are undocumented. If children are born in a medical institution, registration is automatic.
  • Birth registration should take place no later than three months after birth and birth certificates are issued upon registration, but at least the mother must be documented before the child can be registered and a birth certificate issued. This can cause delays of up to years sometimes with no other safeguards in place for the child. Late birth registration is possible in practice, but it is subject to a fine.
  • There are credible reports from NGOs of barriers to birth registration for undocumented parents and children remaining unregistered as a result. Roma communities are disproportionately impacted and many face challenges due to parents' lack of documentation.
  • There is no requirement to report people who are undocumented to immigration authorities.
  • The child's nationality is recorded on the birth certificate if they have an entitlement to Moldovan nationality, but it is unclear how the child’s nationality is determined if parents do not have residence status in Moldova or the child’s entitlement to nationality cannot be proven with documentation.
  • There are no current proactive government campaigns or programmes to promote birth registration. The Government passed a decision in 2009 ‘on simplifying the procedure for registering new-borns’, which introduced automatic registration for children born in a medical institution.
  • An amendment to the law, which came into force in January 2018, recognizes Transnistrian civil status acts, making it easier for parents of Transnistrian origin to register the births of their children in Moldova and for children born to Transnistrian parents to acquire Moldovan nationality.
  • There are no other reduction measures in place, and a recent amendment to the law increased the risk of children being born stateless in Moldova.
  • Grounds for the withdrawal of Moldovan nationality are established in law and include where a person acquired nationality by fraud, enlisted in a foreign army, or committed particularly serious deeds damaging the state.
  • There is a safeguard against statelessness in all cases except for the fraudulent acquisition of nationality.
  • The competent authority is the President, an appeal is possible and legal aid is available to challenge the presidential decree.

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