Claiming asylum is a fundamental right

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Errc calls on Macedonian authorities to stop blocking its citizens from leaving the country

 

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) sent an open letter today to national and international authorities to express its concern about the continuing efforts of the Macedonian government to prevent its citizens, including those of Roma origin, from leaving the country if they have been deported from other countries or are suspected of planning to claim asylum in the EU.

The ERRC underlined that these practices violate the recent Constitutional Court ruling on 25 June 2014 which declared restrictions on the right to leave one’s own country unconstitutional.

Despite this ruling, the ERRC has documented cases where the Ministry of the Interior has continued to issue decisions to confiscate passports, in violation of the Court’s ruling. Furthermore, the ERRC has documented new illegal restrictions: prohibiting citizens who have previously been deported from leaving the country using their biometric identity card as a travel document to enter neighbouring countries (notably Serbia). This practice is not lawful because it is not based on any court order, as required by law.

If the Macedonian authorities are worried that Macedonian citizens (particularly Roma) will travel to other countries to seek asylum or live and work without permission, they should seek to address the root causes that motivate people to leave: poverty, social exclusion, and violations of their fundamental rights. Claiming asylum is a right (regardless of whether the claim is ultimately accepted), and a significant number of asylum seekers from Macedonia is a symptom of a problem that cannot be solved by preventing people from exercising that right.

The ERRC called on the relevant authorities, in particular the Ministry of Interior, to implement the ruling of the Constitutional Court fully as well as to return passports to all those who have been affected by the government’s unconstitutional actions.

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