PODGORICA – The complexity of dealing with the issue of statelessness was discussed with the representatives of media during the working breakfast organized by the UN thematic group on gender and human rights.
In her introductory addressing, the UNHCR Representative in Montenegro Brita Helleland shortly explained the mandate of UNHCR given by the UN General Assembly to address the issue of statelessness. “The UNHCR is dealing with statelessness through three major activities: prevention, reduction and protection”, said Ms. Helleland and briefed representatives of media about
key challenges in that endeavor. “In this phase of dealing with statelessness in Montenegro, one of the greatest challenges is determining accurate statistics. It is hard to define who is a stateless person, due to the complexity of the issue”, stated the UNHCR representative. She emphasized the importance of two UN conventions which treat statelessness – the 1954 UN Convention on Status of Stateless Persons, signed by the Montenegrin Government and the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness which has not been ratified yet.
Further elaboration was presented by the UNHCR protection associate Slobodan Raščanin who reminded participants of some basic rights that the stateless persons do not have access to, like health care, education, registering for marriage, employment, opportunities for travelling, etc..
He explained that the UN Convention from 1954 treats the status of stateless persons and rights attached to the status, while the Convention from 1961 is focused on avoidance of statelessness at birth, highlighting the importance of ratification of the second one. “Ratification of the UN Convention from 1961 would be the first serious step in this regard, because it would illustrate clear political will of the Government to address this issue”, said Mr. Raščanin and added that neglecting statelessness only multiplies that problem. He also pointed to the importance of regional cooperation in addressing the problem, reminding that the crises in Balkans in recent decades resulted in generating many stateless persons in the region.
Mr Raščanin highlighted the need for change of the perception that Roma are the only group who face the statelessness problem, presented some particular cases, and explained the distinction between ‘de jure’, ‘de facto’ and ‘at risk of statelessness’ population.
Representatives of the UN thematic group on gender and human rights highlighted the importance of cooperation with media in addressing statelessness, for further raising awareness of that complex issue as well as for transmitting the message to
the people in need of accurate information in this regard.
The presentation of statelessness facts and figures was followed by the interactive discussion with the journalists on various aspects of the statelessness situation in Montenmegro and the region.