Serbia is party to relevant human rights instruments, including the 1954 and 1961 Conventions, although it has not acceded to the two Council of Europe statelessness 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. In 2018, a new Law on Foreigners was adopted, which for the first time provides a definition of a stateless person in national law, though this is narrower than the 1954 Convention definition. There is also a ‘stateless’ protection status providing for a right to work, education, social security and a travel document, as well as protection against discrimination. Alternatives to detention are set in law and must be considered prior to detention. If removal has been delayed, a temporary ID card may be issued on release and the option to register for temporary stay on humanitarian grounds provided after a year. There are some further protections against arbitrary detention including a time limit in law, and a policy of setting a country of removal prior to detention.
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. Withdrawal of nationality is established in law and there are protections against statelessness, but cases of ‘quasi-loss’ of citizenship have been reported in practice leading to a risk of statelessness.
Milan Radojev, Praxis