In 2018, the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia made a welcome public commitment to addressing civil registration challenges that contribute to the risk of statelessness in the country; but the updated Index data shows little concrete change, indicating a need for urgent reform.
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 1954 Convention, there is no mechanism by which statelessness can be identified or determined, and no stateless protection status. The only routes to regularisation for a stateless person are to apply for temporary residence as a ‘foreigner’ at the discretion of the government or to apply for asylum, both providing only very limited rights.
- There is a provision in law for children born on the territory to stateless parents or parents of unknown citizenship to automatically acquire citizenship, 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 citizenship.
- The law refers to children, so this is interpreted as under 18 years-old.
- Citizenship can only be withdrawn if parents are identified and can confer their citizenship to the child, and this would not leave the child stateless.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.
- The state provides for acquisition of its nationality by a foreign child adopted by its nationals. If at least one parent is a citizen by naturalisation, the child will also acquire Macedonian citizenship 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 Macedonian by birth, the child will acquire citizenship from the date of adoption.
- A child born abroad to a 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 Macedonian national with the competent authority.
- The conditions of acquisition are not discriminatory.
- The law provides for immediate (within 15 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.
- 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). In some cases, where several years have passed since the birth of a child, parents must obtain DNA analysis, which presents an additional and financially costly burden.
- 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.
- 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 law provides that after 30 days, the birth can only be registered through a procedure for subsequent birth registration on the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The law does not set out what evidence is required from the parents.
- Late birth registration is possible in practice, but it is a very cumbersome administrative procedure that puts additional requirements on the parents. They must pay 250 MKD (4 Euros) 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 certificate of birth (if born in hospital) or vaccination certificate (if born at home); paediatrician certificate; certificate for education (if the child attends school, if not, notary verified statement from the parents that the child does not attend school and why); and in some cases, additional notary verified statements or DNA analysis confirming paternity.
- Such requirements are extremely difficult to meet and the risk of births remaining unregistered therefore impacts disproportionately on marginalised communities, including, in particular, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians.
- There was a Government-led programme - ‘Action for additional inscription of births and personal names’ -, which provided payment for DNA analysis for complicated cases of unregistered birth and personal names, but this has now ended.
- In April 2018, the Government announced a public call for registration of people who lack personal documents.
- Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are disproportionately impacted by the risk of statelessness and constitute the majority of people who remain unregistered in the Republic of North Macedonia.
- There are provisions for loss of citizenship by renunciation in North Macedonian law, in accordance with international agreements.
- Citizenship cannot be lost if the person has no other citizenship, so there is a safeguard against statelessness in law.
- The competent authority in withdrawal procedures is the Ministry of Interior. There is a right of appeal, and by law, legal aid is available, but in practice it is not accessible for such cases.