21 May 2009

Civil registration and the prevention of statelessness:

Civil Registration and the Prevention of Statelessness: A Survey of Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians (RAE) in Montenegro presents the results of a study carried out in 2008 by UNHCR, with support from the European Commission, and UNICEF. The survey, conducted by the NGO Legal Centre of Montenegro, provides baseline data on the possession of personal documentation among RAE population groups. It covers a total of 7,166 RAE -- both local and refugee/displaced populations -- representing approximately 70% of the RAE population living in Montenegro. It is the largest survey of its kind to date. Being recognized as a person before the law is an internationally accepted and fundamental human right. Those who are not registered are at risk of being denied basic rights and opportunities: without documentation they may face difficulties in accessing or finishing school, in receiving adequate medical care, in finding employment, in owning property, and even in moving freely. RAE populations in South East Europe are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, and are particulary affected by a lack of personal documentation. Registration is an essential element of national planning for children and adults, and provides the demographic base upon which effective strategies can be built. In this way, a lack of personal documentation can serve as a driver for further exclusion and marginalization. In 2008, UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNDP signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the occasion of World Roma Day, in the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration of the Government of Montenegro, with the aim of strengthening cooperation in searching for durable solutions for the RAE through the facilitation of birth certificates and personal documents, as a pre-condition for their access to social security services and to further enable their social inclusion. The findings of the survey presented in this booklet reveal the need for an urgent and concerted effort within and beyond Montenegro to support RAE in claiming their rights. UNHCR and UNICEF are confident that this report will contribute to the efforts of governments in South East Europe, international organizations, civil society, and RAE groups, towards achieving civil registration and social inclusion.