News 25 Jan 13

Montenegro Refugees Await Legal Status Concession

Parliament must agree a proposal to give wartime refugees from Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo another year to apply for 'resident foreigner' status guaranteeing rights to work and welfare.

Milena Milosevic

Montenegro’s government on Thursday adopted a proposal to amend legislation to allow people who didn’t apply for the status of 'foreigner with permenent residence' last year to do so by the end of 2013.

The proposed amendment to the law on foreigners also needs to be approved by parliament.

Acquiring this status is the only way for more than 10,000 refugees in Montenegro to secure their rights to work, education, welfare and health care.

Montenegro has one of the strictest citizenship regimes in the region and is especially prohibitive with regard to dual citizenship.

Many refugees who obtained their passports in their home countries while residing in Montenegro cannot apply for Montenegrin citizenship but only for the status of foreigner with permanent residence, even if their origins are Montenegrin.

The problem is paricularly acute among Roma refugees who fled Kosovo in 1999, some of whom don’t have any identity documents to show when applying for foreigner status.

Montenegro’s bureau for refugee care, along with the local Red Cross and the UN refugee agency, has organised several trips to Kosovo in order to ensure these refugees acquire the required documents.

The prosposed deadline extension would be the second time that refugees have been given more time to apply, as the authorities previously extended the cut-off date to the end of 2012.

According to data published a year ago, 3,412 people from Bosnia and Croatia and 8,850 people from Kosovo have so far been been given the temporary administrative status of displaced and internally displaced persons.

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