The Commission for Prevention and Protection Against Discrimination has issued an opinion recommending the Ministry of Interior amend a law which prevents Roma living in segregated, informal communities from obtaining identity cards in North Macedonia.
The Commission found that the Ministry indirectly discriminated against Roma living in informal or unlegalized homes through the Law on Registration of Domicile and Residence. The decision comes in the wake of the death of 20-year-old Romani man, Memet Kamber, who died on 24th May of diabetes-related ketoacidosis due to his inability to access timely healthcare without a personal ID. The complaint was brought by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).
The ERRC’s Legal Director, Senada Sali, welcomed the Commission’s opinion, saying “governments must adopt better legislative approaches to ensure that Roma living in informal housing have the same access to rights as other citizens. Informal ‘settlements’ often lack legal recognition, which can lead to a lack of basic services for residents. Governments should take steps to formally recognize and regularize these places, ensuring that Romani communities have legal rights to their homes and land. Memet Kamber’s tragic story has catalysed change, and the outcome of this case represents a meaningful step forward in the ongoing struggle for equality and justice for the Romani community in North Macedonia. This case shows how access to identification documents is not merely a bureaucratic formality but a fundamental aspect of an individual’s dignity and rights.”
On 13th June 2023, the ERRC communicated an initiative to the Government and Assembly of North Macedonia for the establishment of a working group in the Government to adopt the necessary amendments to the laws preventing Romani communities living in informal housing from obtaining ID cards. The ERRC argues that the Law on ID Cards and the Law on Registration of Domicile and Residence discriminate against Roma without a legalised address, as well as anyone who does not own or rent property. The organisation also submitted a petition to the Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination arguing that this amounts to discrimination based on property status and ethnicity against Roma. The Commission issued its opinion on the 29th August 2023, giving the Ministry of Interior a maximum of three months to initiate the required changes. If the Ministry does not comply with the decision an infringement procedure will be initiated by the Commission ex officio (in the public interest without a new petition).
The ERRC’s decision to act was precipitated by the tragic death of the 20-year-old Romani man , Memet Kamber, in Skopje’s Clinic for Anaesthesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (KARIL) on the 24th May 2023. Memet had untreated hyperglycaemia which caused life-threatening ketoacidosis and ultimately led to his death. His visit to the KARIL hospital was the first and last of his life. Despite working and having a home, Memet lived in an unlegalized house, meaning he could not prove his residence address and thus obtain an ID card. Without this he was unable to access any medical care other than emergency treatment and subsequently could not be buried either for the same reason.
It is hoped that the ERRC’s proposed amendments to the legislation will mean fewer preventable deaths for Roma living in informal housing like Memet Kamber.
The opinion of the Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination can be found here (in Macedonian).
This press release is also available in Macedonian.
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