UN refugee agency mobilizes lawyers to address statelessness in Montenegro
Over one hundred people in Montenegro have recently received assistance from lawyers mobilized by the United Nations refugee agency as part of stepped-up efforts to fight statelessness in the Balkans country.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) legal aid implementing partners have assisted thousands of displaced persons in Montenegro since 1998, the agency said in a news release. “They are focusing increasingly on the issue of statelessness and, since November last year, have helped 146 people in Montenegro obtain proof of birth and/or nationality.”
The agency said it is working to better assess the number of people at risk of statelessness in Montenegro in order to develop a comprehensive and lasting solution to the problem. By some estimates, up to 6,500 members of the Roma, Ashkaelia, and Egyptian population may be at risk due to lack of documents.
“Without proof of citizenship, people slip through the cracks in society and they are cut off from important rights,” said Maja Lazic, coordinator for UNHCR’s regional legal aid project. “Conversely, without registered, documented inhabitants, States are unable to effectively govern their populations.”
The agency said solving the problem will require continued legal assistance and outreach campaigns, as well as advocacy for a more active, open and transparent approach by the State bodies responsible for birth registration.
It also called for improved access for displaced persons to documentation in Serbia.