Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Identity Cards a Big Problem for Serbia's Unaccounted Roma

This year Serbia introduced new high-tech ID cards with chips and biometric data. According to the new regulation, all citizens over 16 residing in Serbia must have a new ID card by July 2011. The new cards include a chip with personal data on citizenship, residency, and address under an individual citizen number. Biometric data will include a face analysis, fingerprints, signature, digital photo, and digital fingerprint. Sounds pretty high-tech!

For around 400,000 Roma in Serbia, large obstacles are in the way of getting one of the new ID's. Because they live in temporary settlements without addresses, these Roma do not have the permanent place of residence required to register for an ID card. At least two generations of Roma don't even have birth certificates. Without an ID card, the state administration cannot account for them. The lack of an ID also creates large barriers for the Roma in entitlement to social services such as education and health care, as well as getting a job.

Currently, the Serbian authorities are not addressing the issue with any urgency, nor is there any real plan.

Source: The Belgrade Times, March 8, 2007

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