“Everyone has the right to a nationality”

Roman - Faces of statelessness

When they asked me what citizenship I had I did not know what to say. I invented my citizenship as “Yugoslav” because I was born in former Yugoslavia. They wrote it down how I said it.

Roman is stateless. He was born in Kosovo in the 1960’s. His father was a Yugoslav citizen and his mother was a citizen of the USSR. Early in his life, Roman’s mother took him to Russia to live with his grandmother. But before he was old enough to obtain an ID as proof of his nationality, his grandmother died and Roman left Russia to travel around Europe.

More than 20 years ago Roman came to Slovakia but he has remained in limbo ever since due to his lack of a nationality or any official ID. This has caused him many problems.

I was so many times at the foreigners police that I cannot count it. I was arrested at least 25 times and I was in detention center 6 or 7 times. If I had copy of all my documents that police has about my case, we would spent one week reading them.

On multiple occasions Roman was held in the immigration detention centre awaiting deportation from Slovakia. In 2005 the Government issued him with an expulsion order and a 10 year re-entry ban. However, as neither Serbia, Kosovo, nor the Russian Federation recognised him as their citizen, his forced expulsion could not proceed. As a result his continued detention was eventually considered futile and he was released.

In 2006 he was granted tolerated stay because “his departure from Slovakia is not possible and his detention is not effective”. Since then his tolerated stay has been prolonged repeatedly every 6 months.  

In 2005 Roman’s citizenship was registered as “Yugoslav”. Then a year later the police changed his citizenship to “unknown” in granting him tolerated stay. In 2008 police suddenly started to evidence him as “stateless”. This then changed again in 2013 to “unspecified”. As there is no statelessness determination procedure in Slovakia Roman has never been officially recognized as a stateless person.   

Roman has a spouse who is a Slovak citizen. They have lived together for 15 years in a common household, however for the last few years they have been made homeless. Roman’s spouse is disabled and almost blind with full time care needs provided to her by Roman. Because Roman only has tolerated stay (rather than full regularisation as a stateless person) he continues to live in limbo - unable to work, access full healthcare or enjoy a secure future with his partner.  Roman explains

[W]e cannot marry and they also do not want to give me a residence permit as to her partner. What can we do?

While Slovakia enables stateless persons to apply for Slovak citizenship if the person lived on the territory for at least three  years, Roman does not meet other conditions, having a birth certificate and a criminal record which is the result of not respecting the deportation order, despite the fact that he was unable to leave Slovakia because he did not possess any valid travel documents.

As a person who was granted tolerated stay Roman has no access to health care or access to employment, with no possibility to get married. Roman’s future remains unclear.