UNHCR Commemorates Roma Day by Urging Governments to Prevent and Eliminate Statelessness

Friday 8 April 2011

SARAJEVO – Today, UNHCR and Vaša Prava BiH commemorate International Roma Day, reminding governments of the social vulnerability and marginalization of Roma people, while encouraging additional efforts in preventing and eliminating statelessness.

As a marginalized community, Roma encounter obstacles in exercising their fundamental human rights. Many are absent from birth registries, and therefore, do not possess identification documents. Without such, individuals are unable to exercise their social, political, health, education, and employment rights. Consequently, this poses a substantial obstacle for Roma social integration, increasing the risk for statelessness.

“It is important that on International Roma Day we invite all competent authorities to eliminate the difficulties that Roma face in access to civil documentation and basic human rights. UNHCR would particularly like to highlight problems encountered by most vulnerable Roma individuals, including pregnant women and children, particularly in the area of healthcare access,” says Scott Pohl, Senior UNHCR Protection Officer in Sarajevo, BiH.

With support from the European Union, Government of Switzerland, and the Principality of Liechtenstein, UNHCR and Vaša Prava BiH aim to prevent and reduce statelessness through advocacy, awareness, and a free legal aid program. Implemented three years ago, the program provides legal assistance to Roma persons, particularly in areas of registration and acquisition of identification documentation.

“Over 2,000 individuals received free legal assistance, while some 900 either obtained ID cards or were recorded in birth registers for the first time,” says Emir Prcanovic, Executive Director of Vaša Prava BiH.

A significant contribution is also provided by Roma NGOs and activists, and BiH government at all levels.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, to which BiH is a signatory. UNHCR and Vaša Prava BiH encourage government representatives to prevent and eliminate statelessness through adoption of regulations aimed at simplifying the registration process in the birth registry and acquisition of citizenship for stateless persons.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

Mina Jasarevic

E-mail: jasarevi@unchr.org