Using the #StatelessnessINDEX to raise awareness and enhance legal assistance in Moldova

Oleg Palii - Executive Director, Law Center of Advocates
/ 4 mins read

Law Center of Advocates (LCA) is a public association founded in 1997. Our mission is to implement projects and programs aimed at promoting the Rule of Law, judicial independence and respect for human rights in Moldova. We provide specialist legal training and support, as well as offering legal assistance to all refugees, asylum seekers, beneficiaries of humanitarian protection and stateless persons. LCA is UNHCR’s legal implementing partner in Moldova. As part of our work on statelessness, we have collaborated with the European Network on Statelessness to develop a #StatelessnessIndex profile on Moldova.

The Index enables us to understand existing laws, policies and practice related to statelessness in European countries and through its comparison feature, identify where there is both good practice and room for improvement. Law, policy and practice on the protection of stateless people and prevention and reduction of statelessness is generally positive in Moldova. The country’s record on treaty accession is good and it is one of few states with a dedicated Statelessness Determination Procedure (SDP) established in law. The SDP was established in 2011 and is accessible, with a mandatory interview, an option to initiate the procedure ex officio, and some rights are granted to applicants. People recognised as stateless in Moldova are granted rights in line with nationals. Although there is an accelerated route to naturalisation, reduced from ten years, a stateless person must still wait eight years before being eligible to apply for citizenship.

Disaggregated data on the stateless population in Moldova is limited. The authorities record figures on people recognised as stateless but do not publish these, and they are not disaggregated. Data on detention is also not published. There are some problems with the way official data is collected, including that there are overlapping categories, such as ‘people with USSR passports’ and people with ‘undetermined citizenship’. No data is available for the disputed Transnistrian region. However, a mapping study of statelessness commissioned by UNHCR is forthcoming.

There are several gaps in detention law, policy and practice in Moldova. Moldovan law provides some protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people, in that detention is to be used only as a last resort and a country of removal must be set prior to detention for removal. However, periodic review of detention was removed in 2016, reducing protection from arbitrary detention, and the maximum time limit differs for different types of detention, with no time limit for detention pending deportation following a criminal conviction.

Positively, there are full safeguards in nationality law to prevent statelessness and the Moldovan legal framework provides for universal birth registration, so that all children born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless can acquire nationality automatically at birth. However, access to birth registration is hindered in practice by the requirement that parents must be documented to register a birth, with some communities at higher risk of remaining unregistered, such as Roma and those of Transnistrian origin.

By collating all this information on statelessness in Moldova, the Index is an important tool which will help shape future work promoting the prevention and reduction of statelessness, and the promotion of stateless people’s rights. The Law Centre of Advocates has incorporated the Index into our training materials for judges, lawyers, migration officers, and prison officers. We have also been promoting the Index at national events and sharing it with relevant national contacts including the Public Services Agency and Bureau for Migration and Asylum, in order to raise awareness about the Index nationally and regionally, and the key issues facing stateless people in Moldova.

We are currently developing a country briefing which will be published on the Index website in both English and Romanian, and will provide clear, actionable recommendations to improve law, policy and practice on statelessness. In 2019, the Law Centre of Advocates hopes to visit all residence centres in the Republic of Moldova in order to determine whether there any undocumented persons, stateless persons or persons at risk of becoming stateless in these centres. This will help to provide a clearer picture of the existing stateless population and where individuals are at risk of statelessness in Moldova.

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