The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, ECRI, has issued its first report on Montenegro, expressing concerns over the status of refugees in the country.
The legal status and housing of people who fled Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia during the wars of Yugoslav dissolution is assessed as problematic. Some of them face segregation and risk becoming stateless, it is highlighted in the report issued on Tuesday.
Although they are commonly referred as refugees, around 17,000 people from Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia in Montenegro were given the administrative status of either “displaced” or “internally displaced persons”. This hampers their access to social, political and economic rights, ECRI’s experts state.
In order to resolve the complex status of refugees, Montenegrin government has given them right to apply for the status of foreigners with permanent residence. However, many of them do not have necessary documents like birth certificates and passports from their countries of origin. ECRI urged Montenegrin authorities to remove this obstacle.
The risk of not becoming neither citizens nor foreigners primarily concerns Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, who came from Kosovo during the NATO bombing in 1999, and were either never registered at birth or lack proof of registration.
ECRI also expressed concerns over the housing of refugees from Kosovo. The camp in Podgorica’s outskirt Konik, where 1,500 of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians live, constitutes de facto segregation. “Living conditions there are inhuman and hazardous”, reads the report.
The report advises closure of the Konik Camp and provision of standard accommodation to its inhabitants.
ECRI is an advisory human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, religion and language, as well as xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
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