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 ‘statelessness status’ in Serbia providing for a right to work, education, social security, healthcare under certain conditions, 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. Stateless people for whom there is no reasonable prospect of removal should be released from detention, but statelessness is not explicitly considered a juridically relevant fact in decisions to detain and is not identified as giving rise to vulnerability.
Efforts to prevent and reduce statelessness in Serbia are inhibited by gaps in the implementation of legal safeguards. There is no simplified or accelerated route to naturalisation for stateless people. 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.
Milan Radojev, Praxis