North Macedonia

The Republic of North 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 statelessness conventions, there is no statelessness determination procedure, and no stateless protection status. There is a very limited route to regularisation for some stateless people on the territory (who were citizens of the former Yugoslavia) but options for others are limited to applying for asylum or a temporary residence permit at the discretion of the Government, both providing only very limited rights. There are some protections in law from arbitrary detention, including the right to free legal aid and 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 nationality to automatically acquire North 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 North Macedonian nationals abroad. However, there remain significant barriers to universal birth registration, and recent efforts to address civil registration issues have not resolved the systemic problems that continue to create a risk of statelessness. North Macedonia has received four Universal Periodic Review recommendations on this issue and there is strong evidence that Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are disproportionately impacted.

Last updated: 
Mar 2021
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2022
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.

The Republic of North Macedonia has a good record on accession to relevant international and regional treaties. It is State party to the 1954 Convention, acceded to the 1961 Convention in January 2020, and is party to most other relevant international and regional treaties with no reservations, including the European Convention on Nationality. However, it is not state party to the European Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession nor to the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

  • The Republic of North Macedonia is State party to the 1954 Convention with no reservations and the Convention has direct effect.
  • The Republic of North Macedonia acceded to the 1961 Convention in January 2020 with no reservations and the Convention has direct effect.
  • The Republic of North Macedonia is State party to all other relevant regional and international treaties, except for the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession and the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

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 North 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 and its partners collect operational data on the population at risk of statelessness.

  • The Republic of North 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.
  • A government-initiated campaign in 2018-2019 to identify and register people who lack a birth certificate or other documentation, resulted in 750 people at risk of statelessness being identified, the majority of whom were Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian. This figure is likely an underestimate of the total population at risk, as there may be others who either did not hear about the public call or were unable to register during the timeframe.
  • UNHCR and its implementing partner, Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, report 558 people at risk of statelessness as of December 2020, of whom 286 have unregulated nationality and 272 have undetermined North Macedonian nationality.
  • In 2018, 297 asylum seekers resided in the asylum reception centre. The top three countries of origin were Pakistan (88), Afghanistan (46) and Iran (20). No-one in the asylum procedure between 2018-2020 was recorded as stateless.
  • The Republic of North Macedonia does not publish data on stateless people in detention. It does collect some data on the nationality of detainees, and the Government confirmed in a free access to information request that one stateless person was held in immigration detention in 2019 and one person in 2020.

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 procedure (SDP) leading to a dedicated stateless status. If an SDP is not place, it assesses whether there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified or other routes through which stateless people could regularise their stay or access their rights. Countries are subdivided in three groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP leading to protection, those with other procedures, and those with a stateless status but no clear mechanism to access protection. The existing procedures and rights granted to stateless persons are examined and assessed against international norms and good practice.

North Macedonia has a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, but it does not have a comprehensive legal framework in place to identify and protect stateless people. There is no statelessness determination procedure nor stateless protection status. There is a route to regularisation for some stateless people residing in North Macedonia since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, but the only other options are an application for asylum or a temporary residence permit at the discretion of the Government. People who lack civil status and are at risk of statelessness may apply for a ‘special registration’ to access socio-economic rights, but this does not resolve their nationality status. Stateless people with a residence permit have access to some basic rights including to apply for nationality through naturalisation after six years’ legal residence.

  • The definition of a stateless person in national law in the Republic of North Macedonia aligns with the 1954 Convention.
  • There is no formal training for government bodies on statelessness, but ad hoc training is provided by UNHCR and Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA), based on the needs of the relevant institutions.
  • There is no training on statelessness for judges.
  • MYLA and UNHCR provide training to lawyers and NGOs on an ad hoc basis. MYLA also trains its lawyers and attorneys as well as NGOs working with high school students and Romani communities.
  • There is no statelessness determination procedure nor stateless protection status in the Republic of North Macedonia.
  • There are routes to regularisation for some stateless people or those at risk of statelessness (people who were born in North Macedonia or neighbouring countries of the former Yugoslavia and who remain without civil status and/or nationality).
  • Stateless migrants may obtain a temporary residence permit on humanitarian grounds at the discretion of the Government on a case-by-case basis, and statelessness may be identified and recorded during international protection procedures.
  • Under the ‘Law on Foreigners’ people from the former Yugoslavia who have remained on the territory of North Macedonia without acquiring the nationality of any other country may apply for permanent residence.
  • Under the ‘Law on Persons without Regulated Civil Status’, people at risk of statelessness who do not have any personal documentation can register for a ‘special registration’, which provides access to socio-economic rights. However, this only applies to individuals identified to be without personal documentation during a Government-led public call conducted in 2018, and to children born after the closure of the public call.
  • During the asylum procedure a person can be recorded as ‘a stateless person from [country of birth]’, but there is no procedure for the identification of statelessness. If the person later receives an identity card as an asylum seeker or beneficiary of international protection, they will be identified as 'stateless person born in [country of birth]’).
  • Stateless migrants may regularise their stay and obtain a temporary residence permit on humanitarian grounds, but only at the discretion of the Government on a case-by-case basis and dependent on the documentation available.
  • There are no obligations in law on the authorities in North Macedonia to examine a claim of statelessness, and no clear, accessible instructions for stateless people on how to claim their rights under the 1954 Convention.
  • Procedures under the Law on Foreigners are conducted by the police, and the procedure under the Law on Persons without Regulated Civil Status is conducted by civil registry officials. Neither are specialised in statelessness and there is no centralised cooperation between agencies that may have contact with stateless people.
  • The burden of proof in all procedures is on the applicants. They must apply, attend interviews where relevant, and provide all necessary documentation to state officials. The Law on Administrative Procedure obliges state officials to guide and assist those who do not understand the law, but this is not fully implemented in practice.
  • The standard of proof applied when establishing statelessness is unclear.
  • There is no clear guidance for officials on how to identify or determine statelessness.
  • Free legal aid is only available to stateless persons who have a residence permit or otherwise have a right to stay, including people who have been registered under the Law on Persons without Regulated Civil Status.
  • Stateless people do not always have an opportunity to claim their statelessness in an interview, though this opportunity is provided in the asylum procedure and, in practice, is usually granted in the procedure to acquire a residence permit under the Law on Foreigners.
  • Free interpreting is available in the asylum procedure, as well as in criminal and court procedures, but not in other procedures.
  • In all administrative procedures, decisions contain reasons and are given in writing, electronically, or another appropriate format.
  • Although there is no dedicated statelessness determination procedure nor stateless status, there are several provisions in law that provide certain rights to stateless people in North Macedonia.
  • For example, stateless people can access primary and secondary education and may acquire a temporary residence permit on humanitarian grounds.
  • Stateless people with a residence permit may acquire a 1954 Convention travel document, have a right to free legal aid, and access to employment.
  • A stateless person married to a North Macedonian national, has access to public healthcare based on marriage.
  • Stateless people with permanent residence have the right to work and may access social security.
  • Stateless people do not have the right to vote in any elections in North Macedonia.
  • Stateless people can apply for naturalisation after six years' legally and permanently residing in North Macedonia, which is accelerated in comparison to others.
  • However, other conditions for naturalisation must be met, including submission of a certificate confirming no criminal convictions or prosecutions and birth registration documentation. There are no exemptions from these requirements for stateless people.

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 North Macedonia, but there are few protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people. 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 from detention, 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 North Macedonia restricts immigration detention to the purposes permitted under the European Convention on Human Rights, but recent practice suggests that detention may go beyond this 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 on entering detention.
  • There are no alternatives to detention prescribed in North Macedonian law.
  • If someone 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 used to be a safe house for people subject to detention who were assessed as ‘vulnerable’, but this is no longer in operation as an alternative to detention.
  • 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 receiving 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 North Macedonia, aside from access to primary education.
  • In practice, many former detainees enter the asylum system and secure additional rights as asylum seekers, 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.
  • Statelessness is mentioned in the text of bilateral readmission agreements entered into by the Republic of North Macedonia. However, there is no information on whether stateless people are returned under such agreements, though this has not been observed in practice by the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association.

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 and reduce statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions for the deprivation of nationality.

North 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 parents to automatically acquire nationality, 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 only applies to minors, which is a lower standard than in the 1961 Convention. Children adopted by or born abroad to North Macedonian nationals are protected from statelessness, as are foundlings. There is no legal provision preventing statelessness in the case of a North Macedonian child adopted abroad, though a safeguard is applied in policy and practice. There are significant barriers to birth registration, which disproportionately impact 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. The Government of North Macedonia has taken some partial steps towards reducing statelessness in recent years, including in relation to citizens of the former-Yugoslavia and people without personal documentation at risk of statelessness.

  • There is a provision in law for children born on the territory to stateless parents or parents of unknown nationality to automatically acquire nationality, 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 North 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 acquire nationality.
  • The law refers to children, so this is interpreted as under 18 years old.
  • Nationality can only be withdrawn if parents are identified and can confer their nationality 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.
  • North Macedonia provides for acquisition of its nationality by a foreign child adopted by its nationals. If at least one parent is a national by naturalisation, the child will also acquire North Macedonian nationality in the case of full adoption and if the child is under 18 and lives in North Macedonia (if the child is 15 or older, they must consent). If both parents are North Macedonian by birth, the child will acquire nationality from the date of adoption.
  • A child born abroad to a North 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 North Macedonian national with the competent authority.
  • The conditions of acquisition are not discriminatory.
  • The law provides for immediate (within 30 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. After 30 days, the birth can only be registered through a procedure for subsequent birth registration on the authority of the Ministry of Justice. 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 defining the documentary evidence to be produced by parents, so requirements vary at the discretion of the registry officer. The law allows officials to require evidence for administrative procedures as they see fit (evidential requirements for unmarried parents are particularly cumbersome).
  • Late birth registration is possible in practice, but it is a very complex administrative procedure that puts additional requirements on parents. They must pay 250 MKD (4 EUR) 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 and education certificates for the child; and in some cases, additional notary verified statements or DNA testing.
  • Such requirements are extremely difficult to meet and the risk of births remaining unregistered impacts disproportionately on marginalised communities, including Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. There are credible reports of births not being registered due to lack of documentation. Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are disproportionately affected due to a range of factors, including inability to meet documentary evidence requirements, discriminatory attitudes of registry officials, and poverty and marginalisation.
  • Nationality is determined upon birth registration only if the child is North Macedonian, or there is proof of nationality. There is no legal framework for the subsequent determination of a child’s nationality if they are not North Macedonian. If there is no proof of nationality, the nationality field on the birth certificate is left blank (as has been reported in cases of children born to refugees).
  • There are credible reports by lawyers that medical authorities are being required to report undocumented parents to the immigration authorities in practice.
  • The Republic of North Macedonia has received four Universal Periodic Review recommendations on the issue of access to birth registration.
  • The Government of North Macedonia has taken some partial steps towards reducing statelessness in recent years.
  • In 2019, the Government introduced a regularisation route under the Law on Foreigners for citizens of the former-Yugoslavia who continued to live in North Macedonia after 1991 without acquiring any nationality (and their children under five) to acquire permanent residence.
  • In January 2020, North Macedonia acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
  • In 2020, a new Law on Persons without Regulated Civil Status came into force, enabling people at risk of statelessness without personal documentation to apply for a ‘special registration’ to enable them to access social, health and employment rights. However, the new law does not facilitate access to nationality for this group, nor does it resolve the remaining gaps in the legal framework for civil registration to prevent new cases arising. The new law only applies to individuals identified to be without personal documentation in a Government-led public call conducted in 2018, and to children born after the public call who cannot obtain a birth registration certificate.
  • Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are disproportionately impacted by the risk of statelessness in the Republic of North Macedonia. In 2020, the CEDAW Committee made several recommendations to North Macedonia to combat discrimination against Roma women and girls.
  • There are no provisions for deprivation of nationality in North Macedonian law.
  • There is a provision for renunciation of nationality, but this is not permitted if it would result in statelessness. If the person fails to acquire a foreign nationality within one year of renunciation, they automatically reacquire North Macedonian nationality.
  • The competent authority for nationality matters is the Ministry of Interior. There is a right of appeal, and by law, legal aid is available, though it is difficult to access in practice.

Resources

Library of resources, legal instruments, publications and training materials on statelessness, specifically relevant to this country. More regional and international materials, as well as resources from other countries, are available on the Resources library. Domestic case law can be consulted in the Statelessness Case Law Database (with summaries available in English).

Please note that we are in the process of adding new resources, so check back soon.

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