10 December 2009 Participants of the public hearing

10 December 2009 Participants of the public hearing

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Public Hearing Held on Apatridy and Poverty in Serbia

With the support of UNHCR and UNDP, the National Assembly Committees on Poverty Reduction, on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues and on Interethnic Relations held a joint sitting in the form of a public hearing on “Apatridy and Poverty in Serbia”.

With the support of UNHCR and UNDP, the National Assembly Committees on Poverty Reduction, on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues and on Interethnic Relations held a joint sitting in the form of a public hearing on “Apatridy and Poverty in Serbia”.

At the beginning of the joint sitting, the participants were addressed by the National Assembly Speaker, Prof. Dr Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic. In her address, the Assembly Speaker stressed that the problem of apatridy most often came up in connection with human and minority rights issues. She stressed that today’s gathering expresses the National Assembly’s determination to approach the problem in a comprehensive way. The data show that at least 17 thousand people in Serbia live without citizenship, and that the majority of the group of “legally invisible” persons are Roma who live on the margins of society, unable to exercise their civil rights. The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia guarantees human rights, as well as rights of legal persons. The National Assembly had ratified various international and regional treaties pertaining to human rights, passed a Law on National Councils of National Minorities and Anti-Discrimination Law that shows its determination to finds a systemic solution to the problem of apatridy. She urged the deputies and representatives of executive government to join forces and find a systemic solution for the procedure of recognising legal subjectivity. The Assembly Speaker thanked the international organisations for the expert support they offer the Serbian institutions and pointed out that the National Assembly would do all in its power to help these persons achieve their rights.

Eduardo Arboleda, UNHCR Representative in Serbia, talked about the work the organisation has been doing on the problems of poverty and apatridy in the world and in Serbia. He pointed out that, so far, UNHCR has helped more than 500 thousand refugees in Serbia and has focused on the problems of internally displaced persons from Kosovo-Metohija. A person without citizenship, apatride, has no access to basic human rights. Serbia does not suffer from apatridy as such, but some of its people are at risk from apatridy. These persons are not denied the right to citizenship, but they have no personal documents on the basis of which they could exercise their rights. Primarily, these are members of the Roma population who are marginalised and live in abject poverty. He asked the National Assembly to assist the resolution of the problem by endorsing the signing of the convention on decreasing statelessness, a legislative change that would create the mechanisms for an easier identification of apatrides and a systemic change through the adoption of a Law on the Procedure for Recognition of Legal Subjectivity.

Chairman of the Committee on Interethnic Relations Miletic Mihajlovic pointed out that apatridy is also a problem for the achievement of ethnic minority rights and pledged the Committee’s full support to the solution of the problem.

Chairman of the Committee on Labour, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues Meho Omerovic said that the Committee would work on changing the existing laws, within its purview and via the competent ministry, so as to make the life of these persons more bearable. He announced the adoption of a new Law on Social Protection that would define the provision of urgent intervention services for apatrides until they realise their right to citizenship, after which they would be able to enjoy other measures of state protection as well. According to this solution, in addition to the citizens of the Republic of Serbia, foreign citizens and stateless persons would also be beneficiaries of social protection.

Representatives of organisation PRAXIS and Centre for the Improvement of Legal Studies also addressed the gathering, presenting their activities in the sphere of apatridy.

In addition to the deputies, representatives of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Interior, Labour and Social Policy, Office of the National Security Council, non-governmental sector and international organisations also took part in the public debate. In the discussion, the participants pointed out that there are no adequate mechanisms for the protection of stateless persons, primarily mechanisms for their identifications, that the issue of apatridy is connected with the problem of poverty and crime which can be issues of national and regional security, adding that the problem should be addressed proactively and not repressively. The issues or readmission and visa liberalisation in relation to apatridy were also discussed, as well as cooperation of the non-governmental sector, international organisations and ministries in charge of the issue.

Summarising the results of the discussion, Plavsic stated that the participants agreed that there were no political or legal obstacles to adopting a law that would provide a systemic solution to the problem and deemed that in the process of passing such an important law all the participants should work in partnership.

Committees related to this activity

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monday, 27 march
  • 12.30 - press conference of MP Pavle Grbovic (National Assembly House, 13 Nikola Pasic Square, Central Hall)

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