Update from June 2022:
A UNHCR survey on people at risk of statelessness in Serbia was carried out in 2020 and recorded 253 persons who live in ‘Roma’ settlements and who are not registered in birth registries, 275 who do not have confirmed nationality, 1,032 who do not have an identity card, and 2,072 do not have their residence registered. In 2020, 43 persons from Palestine and one person from Western Sahara expressed the intention to seek asylum in Serbia.
Positively, in 2021, the Ministry of the Interior issued a response to a freedom of information request stating that, in practice, stateless persons or persons who cannot be removed or for whom there is no reasonable prospect of removal, will be released from immigration detention.
At the end of 2020, a non-legally binding Instruction was issued that requires health institutions to report to the nearest police station the birth of a child whose mother is undocumented and who presents herself as a foreigner. It also establishes that biometric data may be taken to establish the identity of the mother. There are concerns that these reporting requirements may result in deportation proceedings being issued against undocumented mothers. Although the declared goal of the Instruction is to enable birth registration for parents who are undocumented, it does not address the question of birth registration immediately after birth. The Instruction has not been published and is largely not implemented.
New resources on Serbia now available include:
- 2021 Statelessness Index Survey
- ENS blog, Birth registration of Roma children is becoming more difficult: a case study from Serbia (June 2022)
- ENS blog, Vicious circles of Roma statelessness in Serbia – A road map (February 2022)
- NGO Praxis’ Contribution to the European Commission’s Serbia 2021 Annual Report (April 2021)
- Praxis, Overview of obstacles to exercising the right to registration in birth registry books, acquisition of citizenship and registration of permanent residence in 2021
- UNHCR and CeSID, Persons at risk of statelessness in Serbia: Overview of current situation and the way forward (November 2020)
- Submission to inform the European Commission 2022 Enlargement Package, including Serbia (April 2022)
- Submission to inform the European Commission 2022 Enlargement Package, including Serbia (April 2021)
- Praxis, Advocacy briefing, Appeal to the competent Ministries to amend the acts that prevent registration at birth (June 2021)
- Praxis, Case studies about children of undocumented parents whose birth could not be registered immediately (June 2022) (If you do not have documents, do not have children; When laws are worth little; The case of Mirita – Just another one of many or a turning point)
- Praxis, Advocacy briefing, Problems in the application of procedure for determining the date and place of birth (November 2021)
- Praxis, Case studies about the problems in the procedures for determination of the date and place of birth (2022) (Registration in birth registry books seems to be more and more difficult; Judicial practice leaves citizens undocumented; Conclusion of the Supreme Court of Cassation hinders Katarina’ registration into registry books)
- Praxis, Advocacy briefing, All Children Have the Right to be Registered at Birth (June 2021)
- Praxis, Advocacy briefing, Problems in the Application of Procedure for Determining the Date and Place of Birth (November 2021)
- Praxis, Advocacy briefing, Problems Related to Acquiring Citizenship (April 2022)
Serbia is Party to relevant human rights instruments, including the 1954 and 1961 Conventions, although it has not acceded to the two key Council of Europe conventions. Data on statelessness is not comprehensive in Serbia and there is no dedicated statelessness determination procedure, although there are ad hoc procedures for identifying statelessness. The ‘Law on Foreigners’ provides a definition of a stateless person in national law, but this is narrower than the 1954 Convention definition. There is also a ‘stateless’ status in Serbia providing for a right to work, education, social security, and a travel document, as well as protection against discrimination, but there is no clear and accessible procedure to acquire this status. There are some protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people including a time limit in law, a policy of setting a country of removal prior to detention, and a procedure for ascertaining nationality and redocumentation during the removal process.
Efforts to prevent and reduce statelessness in Serbia are inhibited by gaps in the implementation of legal safeguards. The law prevents statelessness for most children born on the territory or to Serbian nationals abroad, foundlings, and adopted children, providing for an automatic right to acquire Serbian nationality. However, the safeguard for children born in Serbia is implemented in such a way as to apply only to minors, and a request must be submitted to the competent authority for a decision to be made on the acquisition of nationality. Bylaws on birth registration require parents to present birth certificates and identity documents, increasing the risk that births remain unregistered and impacting disproportionately on Romani communities. An instruction issued in 2020 requires health institutions to report to the nearest police station the birth of a child whose mother is undocumented and there are concerns that these reporting requirements may result in deportation proceedings being issued against undocumented mothers. Although the declared goal of the Instruction is to enable birth registration for parents who are undocumented, it does not address the question of birth registration immediately after birth. Deprivation of nationality is established in law and there are protections against statelessness, but cases of ‘quasi-loss’ of nationality have been reported leading to a risk of statelessness.
Information below by theme was last updated in March 2021.