Today as many as 3,000 people are estimated to be living as paperless citizens of North Macedonia, most of them children. Not having an identity makes it impossible to attend school, which effectively is a crime against Article 28 of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, where it is stated that every child has the right to free primary education.
“This is nothing short of a violation of these rights. Parents face unfeasible demands to prove their own and their children’s identity in order to have the right to schooling, health care and social security. This means children miss their chance to learn how to read and count, which, in turn, leads to them being stuck in poverty and social exclusion”, says Pär Rylöv, Chairman, Loza Foundation.
This is not the first time Loza Foundation has written about these two sisters, Samira and Natalija. In an article published in March 2022, Loza Foundation described how the two girls, their siblings and parents, who were previously homeless, had been given a home and, thus, the chance to start a new life far away from poverty and social exclusion. Then, in September 2022, it was time for Samira and Natalija to start school, but they were denied a place as they did not have birth certificates. Ever since then, Loza Foundation has done everything in its power to provide identity documents for Samira and Natalija, who have by now turned 7 and 10 years old, but so far, Loza has not succeeded.
“It is absurd to think that children are not welcome at school, and we hope that the authorities of North Macedonia will prioritise this on a national level. EU reports show that the lack of identity papers closes the door to so many people trying to escape poverty. Despite this, it is virtually impossible to get through the process, and the number of children barred from society is everincreasing.”
When it comes to Samira and Natalija, the problem is that the girls were born in Italy when their family lived there for a period of time. The authorities of North Macedonia require birth certificates from the country of birth. Bojana Atanasova, a board member at Loza Foundation, used to work at the Health Ministry in North Macedonia, and she is frustrated with the situation:
“The law has to be changed for Samira, Natalija and all the other paperless children to be admitted to school. This issue has been debated for years, but nothing seems to happen. Therefore, from a legal standpoint, these children do not exist. With every year that passes, the chance to schooling diminishes, and so, their chance of escaping poverty once and for all”, says Bojana Atanasova.
The local Loza Foundation team in North Macedonia has worked for several years, assisting and supporting families with children who live in extreme poverty so that they can obtain identity documents. Still, in some cases, such as with these two children, it seems like a lost cause.
Zaklina Durmis works at the Center for Educational Support Dendo Vas. She confirms that a new law has to be introduced and accepted nationally for the children and adults, who lack North Macedonian birth certificates, to become a part of society and to have the right to schooling and health care to name but two.
“We are well aware of the fact that this is a complex situation for families like Samira and Natalija’s. This is why new legislation is required to allow North Macedonian authorities to issue identity documents for these people”, says Zaklina Durmis.
To ensure children like Samira and Natalija will not fall behind in school, Loza Foundation has hired an assistant to work in the field and provide home schooling.
“This is a stopgap measure. It is not sustainable for us long term to provide education like this, but while we wait for a solution to these ID issues, we will do everything in our power”, says Pär Rylöv, Chairman, Loza Foundation.
Investments in future generations, i.e. when children are given schooling, thus, having more opportunities than their parents had, can significantly impact a country’s overall development.
“Excluding children from school creates hostility and reinforces conflicts that have consequences in the future. Loza Foundation actively works for the individual child, who may need a pair of shoes to be able to go to school, but they also strive for societal changes. That is why we need your support”, says Pär Rylöv, Chairman, Loza Foundation.
Facts, The invisible children of North Macedonia
According to official sources, approximately 700 people, who live in the country, lack a birth certificate or other identity documents (2022).
Several sources report that as many as 3,000-5,000 people are paperless.
The North Macedonian authorities admit this is a real issue. Alexandra Efremova, Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA), says: “It is shameful and such a failure for a country aspiring to EU membership to have 700 known individuals that, due to administrative procedures, do not have the opportunity to obtain identity documents”.
In March 2022, North Macedonia officially entered into membership talks with the EU. The report from the first Intergovernmental Conference (19 July 2022) states “Further efforts are required in order to deal with structural problems, e.g. a lack of resources for the public institutions working with children’s rights, a lack of strategic documents relating to children’s rights and how the statutory body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the convention on the rights of the child actually works. So far, an action plan for children, including a sufficient budget and models for providing effective services for children, has not yet been developed.”
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Families with children living in extreme poverty
The support and mentor program’ Families with children living in extreme poverty in North Macedonia’ supports the UN Global Goals for sustainable development through goal number 1, No Poverty. Read more about the UN Global Goals here.
For more information
Sabina Grubbeson, Founder and Secretary-General, +46 (0)733-21 38 23, email@example.com