“Everyone has the right to a nationality”

Isa - Faces of statelessness

Not possessing an ID card is the worst (...) I feel as if I were different million times for not having documents, and people surely see me in a different way because of it. They think I do not exist or that I am a criminal.

Isa was born in Kosovo - Former Yugoslavia. He fled to Belgrade following the 1999 conflict, but because he didn’t have any papers proving his identity, was never registered as an internally displaced person.  

His very first document, his birth certificate, was issued in 2013 when he was 29. This was only possible due to a new procedure  introduced in 2012. Up till then Isa lived a life of an invisible. He did not attend school, he did not have health insurance and the only pieces of evidence about his residence are the statements of his common-law spouse and his neighbours.

However, despite managing to register his birth with the birth registry, Isa remains stateless without a nationality. He cannot “inherit” his father’s nationality since his father doesn’t have any (his father was born in Macedonia and lived in Kosovo since the 1980s, but has never had his nationality officially registered) or his mother’s (she left Isa  when he was only two weeks old and Isa doesn’t know if she held any nationality at the moment of his birth). Without nationality, Isa remains deprived of rights and services. He says:

I cannot get married, recognize paternity of my children, visit my family in Kosovo. I cannot work legally, receive social welfare assistance or register for health insurance. To be without documents and a nationality is as if you never existed in this world.

Serbia currently lacks a procedure to recognise Isa’s statelessness and regularise his status. Meanwhile, the only option open to Isa now is to try to acquire Serbian nationality through the naturalization procedure. Unfortunately, the outcome of the procedure remains uncertain because Isa cannot provide any written proof of his residence, which is one of the legal requirements. So he remains stuck in a vicious circle and facing a life in limbo.

I am scared of the police because I don’t have documents. I hope it will be better and different in the future and I hope to acquire a nationality. I believe I would feel much better then because I would be able to live without fear.

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