A THORNY ROAD TO CITIZENSHIP

G.M. was born on June 30, 1968 in Osijek from a father from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the mother of a Croatian citizenship. The client lived in Osijek until 1985 and finished primary and first grade of high school in Osijek, which he left for personal reasons. In 1985, the client moved to Čepin with its parents, at which time the parents divorced. The client stayed with his sister and mother in a family house in Čepin. G.M. left the family house and Čepin in 1991, when he met the love of his life and went to Požega with her. In the period from 1992-1993, the client and its partner, as refugees, changed their place of residence several times from Zagreb, Brač, Primošten to Zagreb again. During August 1993, G.M. and his girlfriend settled in Čučerje, Dubrava-Zagreb municipality, in an abandoned cottage, and in 2003 the partner leaves G.M. The client’s mother died in 2002, and his father in 2005.

G.M. contacted our office in June 2019 and then we find out that the client was born in Croatia where he has lived since birth, that he never left Croatia, but has no established citizenship status and does not have personal identification documents or have a regulated residence / stay in the Republic of Croatia. The client is without an address – homeless and stays in a cottage in Čučerje – with the permission of the cottage owner. In addition, the client is quite ill and his left toes were amputated, and partly the right ones too. During his stay in the hospital, the social service of the Center for Social Welfare Dubrava reported his case to the police and the client was questioned by the Zagreb Police Department, the Citizenship and Status Issues of Foreigners, and it was determined that the client had no documents, that he had his last personal document in 1992 in Požega, but that his nationality has not been established anywhere.

After a series of checks, CRP Sisak determined that the client was not registered in either the citizens’ books in Croatia or BiH, by father, because the registry books for the Bosanski Petrovac registry area, where the client’s father was registered, were burned down, and the father did not renew the registration. Therefore, the client cannot make a subsequent registration in the citizens’ registry books in BiH.

On 20 July 2020, CRP Sisak attorney submitted a request for determining citizenship pursuant to Art. 30. Para 1 and 2 of the Croatian Citizenship Act (Official Gazette 110 / 15), and was addressed to the Ministry of the Interior, Police Department Dubrava. We note that the request had to be sent by mail because the client was unable to access the Ministry of the Interior in person because he does not have a permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia. In the request, we referred to the fact that G.M. was born in the Republic of Croatia, at the time of his birth his mother was a Croatian citizen, and his father subsequently acquired Croatian citizenship. In addition, the request stated that G.M. at that point was actually a stateless person. His stateless status stems from the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Born in the territory of the Republic of Croatia, he did not acquire citizenship ex lege, de iure sanguinis or de iure soli.

Undoubtedly, he has never been entered in the books of citizens in Croatia and thus is a person without citizenship and without a regulated status in the Republic of Croatia and without documents. The request for determining citizenship was addressed to the Police Dept. Dubrava because G.M. has lived in their area since 1993.

After that, Police Dept. Dubrava forwarded the request to the Ministry of the Interior-Petrinjska, and then the request was forwarded by the Ministry of the Interior in Zagreb on September 22, 2020 to the Požega-Slavonia Police Department because the client had the last address of residence in their area. Požega-Slavonia Police Department in December 2020, submitted a response that they received the request in question on 14 October 2020 and that proceedings are pending.

In March 2021, the Požega-Slavonia Police Department again informed that it had forwarded the request to the Zagreb Ministry of the Interior, stating that this had been done due to the complexity of the case.

In December 2021, RTL Television made a report on the client’s case as a stateless person, and after the show and the engagement of CRP Sisak, UNHCR Croatia and journalists, the Ministry of the Interior reacted to the client’s case and instructed another urgency to be written for the clients, which was done by CRP Sisak. After that, the reactions of other state bodies started, so the Ministry of Defense reacted and informed that G.M. was a participant in the Homeland War and that on that basis he is entitled to compensation as an unemployed veteran (supply). This was followed by resolving the case of admission to Croatian citizenship, which was realized at the end of January 2022, when the client finally received his citizenship certificate.

The case of G.M. confirms the complexity of the status of stateless persons, especially because stateless persons are legally invisible in our system and thus raises a very important issue, which is to establish and formally regulate in our system the procedure for determining the status of stateless persons.

Although this story has a positive outcome in terms of regulating citizenship, the same story points to the fact that the client lost the best years of his life trying to regulate his status in Croatia, during which years he fell ill, lost his ability to work, so at his age of 54 he only expects decent accommodation in an appropriate institution for adult sick persons, and before that he must regulate all his other rights after acquiring citizenship, which is not an easy road. This is a story that both pleases and saddens the reader.

In Sisak, March 4, 2022

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