Stories of citizens who don’t exist

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The state has no sense of concern, what happens with those people, no matter their nationality, says Oliver Mitov, attorney in NRC

 

There are still invisible people in Macedonia, people who don’t exist in the state system. They never went to school, never have been vaccinated, and never had the opportunity to have any kind of help from the state. And it is a great question if they integrate in the society after they get personal documents and after evidencing in the book of birth. Attorneys working on providing personal documents and evidence of so called invisible citizens say that it is very hard to firstly introduce before the institutions and secondly for the institutions to make everything in order for them to integrate in the society. The situation is very different than before.

Afrodita Sulejmani (24) and M.I. (14) both from Kumanovo didn’t exist in the state system formally and legally until December 2011. They both have started a procedure to become visible, Afrodita should take a personal identification card and M.I. should be evidenced in the book of birth.

Afrodita doesn’t have an identification card because her mother didn’t have the right documents. With legal and financial help from the National Roma Centrum from Kumanovo she got the needed documents, birth certificate, citizenship and it only stays on her to pick her identification card from Skopje, but she doesn’t have money for the travelling expenses to the capital.

She never went to school, doesn’t have neither blue coupons, nor health insurance card and until December 2011 she didn’t even have citizenship. She didn’t even go to the doctor’s when she was little. Only in the most extreme cases, when she was very ill and she had to go to the doctor’s but privately. She didn’t even have a birth certificate. Until she was 23 she didn’t exist in the system. She has been married for nearly 5 years. She is a mother of a minor child two and a half years old and the second child is on the way. She is not espoused to her husband because until now she didn’t have the documents a not even the child can be registered in the system. That’s why until now she couldn’t even use the state benefits.

M.I. (14) also never went to school, he can’t even read, nor write, doesn’t have an identification card, nor he is registered in the birth book. He lives with his uncle who raised him. He doesn’t live with his mother because of her health problems. He says that when he receives the documents he wants to enroll in school in order to be able to find work and help his uncle. His mother was a citizen of the Republic of Serbia and don’t have Macedonian citizenship and didn’t have documents. There was no basis for M. to be registered in the system. He was born in home conditions, in Kumanovo.

A procedure for registering in the birth book is started. At the moment he has a seasonal job. It has happened to him policemen to stop him and to ask him for an identification card or any identification document. He said that he doesn’t have one, after which he was taken to the police office. M. explained that he doesn’t exist in the system, that he practically doesn’t exist.

The police released him, but they still insisted on having personal documents without special understanding that M. is invisible for the state.

Oliver Mitov and Katerina Shojik both attorneys in the civil association NRC working on managing procedures for arranging the status of persons without documents, and among others have worked on the cases of Afrodita and M.I. in order for them to be registered as persons born on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia and if they have the basis to demand citizenship, to finally become citizens of the state.

– We had a problem to even start the procedure for Afrodita because she is a mother and in a marriage with a person who is not her father. We filed a demand for additional registration in the birth book and because Afrodita is born in home conditions we couldn’t provide the needed documents as for example vaccination certificate, certificate that her mother has given birth to a child and similar. So we tried to confirm the motherhood by a DNA analyzes in MANU, where it was determined that 99,9% matched and a registration in the birth book was made, explains Mitov.

And he add that the institutions do not react and additional reaction is needed in order for the procedures to be conducted properly.

Real stories for invisible persons are so complicated which often delays the procedures. We often come to problems when a person over 16 should get an identification card for the first time and he/she has been left by the parents long time ago. When issuing an identification card for the first time the presence of one of the parents is needed which is not possible in these cases. If the person is minor it can be solved with a curator and getting a solution for curatorship  from the Center for Social Work in order for the person to get an identification card for the first time. But what if the person is an adult? Usually it is about illiterate persons and the institutions should direct them and to be service oriented towards them in order to finish the procedures which is of interest to the persons themselves but of the institutions also.

Only the DNA analyzes cost 18 000 denars. Additional costs are travelling to Skopje, administrative costs, notarial verification..

– This money is given through a project of NRC supported by the Office for Roma Initiatives Budapest. If that project didn’t exist we would still help and assist through legal opportunities for free legal assistance, but we wouldn’t be able to help people financially, adds Mitov.

For the case of the minor M. attorneys come across with inactivity of the institutions.

– Here we also started the procedure with a registered letter with a demand for additional registration of a found child. Then after the service checked and determined that it is not about a found child but an abandoned child. Then the MI questioned the uncle of M. I must admit they were very correct. But here we had a problem about the curatorship. When I was going to the counters they were telling me that that should be done by the police. I told them they can’t do, they just do operative check. According to work activity they should send the person to the Center for Social Works to register in the birth book because M. was born in home conditions. The procedure stopped, it wasn’t continuing so we talked to the superintended and we told him about the obstacles. We asked for a written report on the advance of the case. It is still like that. We started the procedure in December 2011. It is may now and we still haven’t got a response, says Mitov.

We asked Mitov what it means for the citizens who do not exist in the system how is it to be invisible and if the institutions pay attention to their integration in the society since they get the personal documents. Here is what Mitov says:

– You don’t enjoy any civil rights, you are invisible, and you don’t exist. Although constantly receiving information from us the state acts like someone else should do their job even though we are an association on voluntary basis. The basic concern is on the state. But there is no sense for concern about what happens with those people, no matter their nationality. Do they integrate in the system? They will exist in the system but the question is if and how much will they be integrated in the system. They don’t know with what kind of problems people face.

 

 

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