EU, UNHCR and OSCE help tackle the long-term problem of undocumented persons in South-Eastern Europe
BRUSSELS, THE HAGUE, 22 November 2013 – The European Commission, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) today publish the conclusions of the Regional Conference on Access to Civil Registration and Documentation in South-Eastern Europe, held on 25 October 2013 in Podgorica, Montenegro.
The conclusions take stock of developments two years after the Zagreb Declaration, addressing civil status documentation and registration in South-Eastern Europe, was adopted in October 2011. They list the remaining steps to solve the issue of undocumented people in the region.
The Zagreb Declaration led to positive developments, including legislative amendments facilitating civil registration and documentation and bilateral co-operation. However, there remain obstacles to civil registration and documentation that demand comprehensive and systemic solutions.
The European Commission, HCNM and UNHCR invite the governments in the region to devise, within a determined time-frame, solutions that go beyond a case-by-case approach. They should adopt comprehensive legislation and ensure that corresponding administrative instructions are in place at the local level, they should raise awareness among the communities concerned, and provide training for those tasked with implementing the law. Cross-border co-operation would also need to be enhanced in order to help remove obstacles for the people affected.
The conference, organized by the Interior Ministry of Montenegro, was attended by government representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro and Serbia. Representatives from the three supporting organizations, civil society and other UN agencies were also present.
Twenty years after the conflicts in South-Eastern Europe, approximately 20,000 people remain legally invisible. Their lack of civil registration and documentation is a result of societal marginalization, compounded by factors related to the dissolution of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and displacement. Lacking papers to prove their existence or nationality, they are effectively denied their rights.
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* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.