No child should be left stateless – M.D. got citizenship after 10 years

M.D. was born in France on 10 June 2012 of mother of Croatian citizenship and father of Kosovo, both Roma national minority members from former Yugoslavia. The girl’s birth was registered, but with wrongly entered name, surname and place of birth of the mother.

M.D. was deported from France, together with her parents and four minor brothers and sister to Kosovo in October 2013. After the mother and four children were deported to Croatia, M.D. was left in Kosovo with her father.

The mother and four minor children (+three adult children) were erased from Croatian citizens’ books and were left stateless in 2014. CRP was working on administrative cases of all eight family members and after the positive changes to the Croatian Citizenship Act were adopted, following the initiative of CRP and Roma representative in the Croatian Parliament, in 2015, CRP managed to re-register all family members in Croatian citizens registry books and provide them with all personal documents, including PIN (Personal Identification Number) and ID cards.

In 2016, the father and M.D. came to Croatia.

During 2016, CRP was in telephone contact with the Croatian Embassy in France. An Officer informed us that the birth certificate might be obtained personally. For changing of data, it was necessary for the parents to come personally and hire a lawyer to represent them.

At the beginning of 2017, the Center for Social Welfare informed CRP that they would take care of M.D. case, as they have the case of the whole family. Furthermore, they took away all other minor children from the parents and placed them in a foster family in Eastern Slavonia because of their assessment of parents not being adequate parents. M. D. was also taken, but soon returned, as she did not have documents, medical insurance, so it was not possible for the foster family.

In 2017, CRP tried to regulate the temporary residence of M.D., but it was not possible without birth certificate.

In 2018, CRP tried to enroll M.D. in kindergarten, for preschool education, but it was not possible, as the head of kindergarten and local authorities in Sisak showed no flexibility and willingness to enroll the child into system, claiming it was not possible because M.D. did not have birth certificate and PIN.

Upon regular contacting of the Center for Social Welfare in Sisak, CRP was informed that the Center would forward the case to the Ministry of Social Welfare.

In 2019, CRP coordinated the enrollment of the child into first class of elementary school in Sisak. CRP organized schoolbooks to be provided to M.D., as well as school additional equipment. However, the school informs CRP that the child is attending the school, but not regularly, because she has no PIN, which is why she cannot be entered into school e-books, and therefore, she cannot be evaluated and get grades and school diploma.

In August 2019, CRP wrote to France and asked for changing of data in the birth certificate of M.D. and issuance of a new birth certificate. On 30 September 2019, the registry office in France sent the birth certificate, as it was, with no reply or explanation to our inquiries for changing of data. CRP translated the French birth certificate into Croatian language for eventual needs of administrative procedures in Croatia.

Taking into account the complexity of the case and family, as well as involvement of centers for social welfare, CRP has been discussing solutions to the case. CRP is of an opinion that it might be possible to initiate administrative procedure before the Sisak-Moslavina County, Department for General Administration, for bringing of an administrative decision on registry into birth registry books, based on the Article 40 para 2 of the State Registries Act. On 19 May 2020, CRP visited the Sisak-Moslavina County, Department for General Administration, and discussed the above-mentioned Act and a request for making of a decision on registration of the birth of the child. On 20 May 2020, CRP assisted the client’s mother to submit the above-mentioned request.

CRP was called for a few times to come to the Sisak-Moslavina County and discuss the case, as well as to further explain it, as the office officials have never had such a case.

On 4 June 2020, CRP received a Conclusion for the County Department for General Administration, giving a deadline of 30 days to provide additional documentation that would proof that G. T. is the mother of M.D.

On 5 May 2020, CRP Sisak submitted a request for free secondary legal aid for representation of the client before the court and exemption from payment of court fees

On 9 May 2020, upon rush notes of CRP asking for urgently solving of the case, CRP was handed over the decision on right to free legal aid and exemption from court fees.

On 10 June 2020, CRP filed a lawsuit for establishment of motherhood (as the court procedure and its decision became necessary for the County Department for General Administration to register the child into birth registry books.)

On 1 July 2020, CRP sent a complaint to the Ombudsman, Ombudsman for Children and Ministry of Education, as well as all relevant offices. The reason for the complaint is mainly complaint to the lack of cooperation between Croatian bodies and institutions, as well as CRP’s fear that the child would be able to attend regularly the school again in the school year 2020/2021, so she would lose two years of school.

On 2 July 2020, CRP’s attorney visited the Municipal Court in Sisak and the judge that was assigned with the case. The judge was on sick leave, and the attorney left a rush note with the judge assistant.

On 6 July 2020, CRP Sisak sent a submission to the Sisak-Moslavina County asking for new deadline for providing of proofs, as the deadline of 30 days expired. CRP attached the copy of the lawsuit submitted to the Municipal Court in Sisak.

On 17 July 2020, CRP sent a rush note to the Municipal Court in Sisak, explaining once again that the case was very urgent.

On 10 July 2020, CRP sent a rush note to the Ombudsman and all other human rights related bodies, offices and persons, because none of them replied, so CRP once again emphasized that it is about a child that is stateless and that cannot go to school, which we all must be able to solve.

On 24 August 2020, CRP received letter from Sisak – Moslavina County Tax Administration following the request for establishment of PIN. They said that the client should address her request to Registry Office in Sisak due to the fact of not having Croatian citizenship.

During August and September 2020, CRP managed to enroll the child into elementary school, first class again.

In order not to lose another year by going unregularly to school, CRP rushed procedures for determination of PIN number, before all relevant stakeholders. Finally, on 24 September, the child got her PIN, which enabled her to attend the school regularly.

In September 2020, CRP paid for DNA analysis for the parents of the child, in order to rush the court case.  It showed that the parents are almost 100% parents of M.D.

During 2020, the child went to the hospital for several times, as she was sick. She got treatments, but bills for paying for those treatments as well. CRP wrote requests for exemption from payment, but it was negatively answered.

CRP was sending rush notes to the court in the motherhood establishment case.

On 29 December 2020, a devastating earthquake hit Sisak and the house, where the family was renting an apartment. After that, the family was accommodated in a temporary accommodation in a school and afterwards in the mobile house in a mobile house settlement in Sisak, where they are still living.

During 2021, the police was coming to visit the family and asking about the child, insisting that they needed to register the child, etc. CRP wrote to the Police Department in Sisak, asking them not to disturb the child and family, because they should be aware of the child’s problem and they should be, among other stakeholders, solving it.

In April 2021, the mother tries to find a doctor for the child, but it was not possible, as no doctor wanted to have a patient without personal document. It has been a reason why the child had many school hours/classes with no medical certificate, as when she is sick, she cannot get a certificate from her doctor.

All relevant stakeholders were informed about this situation with medical care/doctors for the child. It includes ombudsman offices, ministries, national and international human rights organizations, etc. Mainly, there were no replies, or just formal ones.

During summer 2021, it was established that the child passed the first class with a negative grade for the Croatian language subject, for which she had almost all positive grades during the school year. CRP tried to solve it with the teacher and the principal of the school, but it was not possible. CRP complained to the Ministry of Education and the Agency for Education. In September 2021, The Ministry replied that there were no violations found.

In September 2021, there was a court hearing in the court case. The lawsuit was again corrected.

In October 2021, the Agency for Education made their analysis and findings, stating that the child’s rights were violated and that the grade concluded for the first class for the Croatian language was determined wrongly and it should be graded positively. The teacher and the principal got instruction on how to correct the grade of the child, as well as their complete approach to the child in the school. CRP finds the work of the Agency for Education very good.

In October 2021, there was another court hearing, which concluded the case.

On 25 November 2021, the court decision in the motherhood case was to be published, but the judge did not do so, but she reopened the case.

In December 2021, it was agreed that the child should change the school, in order to be closer to the place of residence.

In January 2022, the child started new elementary school, second grade.

CRP sent a submission to the Court and the new hearing was scheduled for 2 March 2022. On 2 March 2022, the case was finished and the decision was to be published on 29 March 2022. On 29 March 2022, the court brought a decision on motherhood of the child.

However, on 11 May 2022, the judge established that the decision had a mistake, so she corrected it, giving a new deadline for the court decision to be final. The decision finally became final on July 13, 2022.

During August 2022, the above decision was submitted to the Administrative Department for Assembly Affairs, Legal and General Affairs of the Sisak-Moslavina County, which on September 2, 2022 issued a decision approving the entry in the birth register of the fact of the birth of a minor child occurring abroad.

After the above registration, CRP Sisak obtained a birth certificate and a citizenship certificate for the child.

The child’s last name is still being changed, because the father’s and mother’s last names have been changed since birth, and the child will be given the father’s last name, after which we will make an identity card for the child.

So, a little more than 10 years after her birth, the child received citizenship, i.e. a birth certificate and citizenship certificate, on the basis of which she will receive all other personal documents, and thus all other rights that belong to her. CRP Sisak is happy that the case has finally, after 8 years of administrative and court proceedings, ended positively, but the question arises, what would happen if there was no legal aid provider working on the case as stated above, continuously and professionally?

 

In Sisak, 21 September 2022         

Milana Kreca

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