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July 21, 2018
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Albania: Romani people left without citizenship anywhere

20.6.2018 8:18

A new report by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI), and the Tirana Legal Aid Society (TLAS) finds that discrimination is subjecting Romani people to the danger of statelessness in Albania. The report was launched on 8 June in the Albanian capital at an event attended by Government ministers, Romani people who are stateless, and UN officials.

Romani children are inheriting their parents' statelessness in Albania, growing up without an official nationality and therefore encountering barriers when attempting to access education, health care and housing. Romani people attending the event described waiting for years for their registration with the state to be processed.

Albania's laws are not designed to combat the multiple discrimination Romani people face. Moreover, Albanian officials do not acknowledge that discrimination is a cause of Romani statelessness.

Accessing justice in Albania is also difficult for such persons. Those Roma who have been denied documentation cannot prove they are eligible for legal aid.

Nicole Garbin, a lawyer at the European Roma Rights Centre, said that official ignorance of the issue is not acceptable:  “Albania has obligations in its national and international law about non-discrimination, registering births, and the right to a nationality – but these are not followed through on. Romani children born abroad are being put at risk of statelessness because of all the bureaucratic hurdles their parents, who are Albanian citizens, need to overcome in order to register their births.”

The ERRC has recently filed a case about this issue together with TLAS before the UN Human Rights Committee. Another part of the challenge in addressing Roma statelessness is the lack of available data about it.

The people affected are essentially invisible to policymakers. Lack of data means the scale of the issue is easy to deny.

Chris Nash, Director of the European Network on Statelessness, said: “For too long now a myth has been allowed to persist that Roma are somehow responsible for their own statelessness. Our research emphatically shows that this is not the case, and hopefully our report launched today will act as a much needed catalyst for urgent government action, supported by close monitoring through the EU enlargement process.”

Raimonda Bozo, the Director of Tirana Legal Aid Society, said: “TLAS has more than 10 years providing legal aid services to marginalised persons at risk of being stateless, filling the gaps caused by the missing regulatory legal framework, which affects continuously a considerable number of poor families. It is time for the responsible Albanian authorities in consultation with the best practices, to undertake proper legal actions in accordance with EU recommendations.”

The advocacy groups argue that antigypsyism and Roma statelessness in Albania need to be thoroughly addressed as a matter of priority throughout the country's EU accession process. Albanian authorities should ensure equal access to civil registration and documentation procedures for Roma, and should reform both the laws and the practices that deny Roma their right to a nationality there.

In particular, Albania must safeguard every child’s right to a nationality, irrespective of the status, documentation, or actions of their parents. The NGOs say this should be a part of the government’s National Action Plan working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure that “no one is left behind”.

agw, ERRC press release
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