How Much Does a Birth Certificate “Cost” in Mukachevo?

Mukachevo Human Rights Center

Mukachevo officials interpret the law in their own way, until the court obliges them to fulfill their direct duties and obligations.

It seems strange that, since January, Ukraine has converted to the issuance of so-called “electronic passports” where even paper issuance is a problem. Most significant of all issues, the problem of personal documents is faced by Roma minority. Although the problem is not local – there are contradictions in the legislation of Ukraine. Lawyers of the Charitable fund «Progress» are often consulted by members of the Roma community with problems of inability to obtain personal documents through the complicated issuance scheme. Therefore, in 2012, the lawyers of the Fund have started drafting legislative amendments that were intended to ease the procedure for obtaining personal documents. These changes were presented again on November 18th of last year to the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights.

However, the staff of the Fund «Progress» understands that promoting the idea of making life easier for certain categories of people is hard work. It is especially hard with consideration of the xenophobic attitude towards the Roma. This attitude is promulgated by both ordinary citizens and government employees. That is why, in December 2015, an advocacy campaign was conducted, which was intended to draw public attention to the glaring problems that exist in the Roma community.

Unfortunately, the attention of the main agents of the so-called assistance in issuing documents, the representatives of the Civil Registry, was not obtained. In our work, we realized that only through litigation we can enforce the Civil Registry to read the rules of law the way the court indicates it; do the work when the court will tell them. It is not so easy for people in general because, for the average citizen, time is money. For members of the Roma community, apart from those listed above, it is also impairs, insults and humiliates. As our practice shows, without being accompanied by the social worker or lawyer, it is almost impossible to implement their rights. People are scared, tired and almost powerless against aggressive officials.

In a very emotional state, a desperate Roma turned to us, the Fund «Progress», with her daughter: “For over 2 years we have been driven from court to the Civil Registry offices (there are already 4 court decisions that are not performed by the Civil Registry offices in Mukachevo district) and so, the cycles continues. What this means for us is difficult situations with time, nerves, confusion, and expenses. Legal fees have also increased significantly. The first words of the mother Rosalie Kerp who wanted to get a birth certificate for their daughter Mila Kerp (names were changed for ethical reasons) were: “I do not understand why I pay so much money, if there is no result? My daughter is nobody, because she has no birth certificate. I do not have energy any more”.

During 2014-2015, the mother and the daughter, mentioned above, submitted an application for a certificate of birth to the department of Civil registration in Mukachevo district for state registration of the birth of Kerp Mila – but received denial and recommendation to go to the court to establish the fact of having a baby.

Four times the Kerp family appealed to the court to establish a legal fact. The court refused, citing that there are no valid reasons for establishing a fact, because the Roma woman had the necessary document to confirm a birth, according to which the Registry Office. The necessary document, in this case, is the medical birth certificate. After listening to the story of Roma woman, the lawyers of the Fund consulted her on the matter and prepared a statement to the court to establish a legal fact. However, it was denied again!

An advocate of the Fund, Iryna Lysnychka, explained the actions of the court: “The court rejected the application for establishing the fact of birth, saying that the fact of having a child is confirmed by the document and there are no reasons for establishing this fact again in court. In addition, the reasoning behind the decision indicated that the assessment of the actions of the person concerning the entity of the Department of State Civil Registry, cannot be given by the Court. A denial of state registration of birth of a child may be the subject of another dispute that cannot be treated in order of separate proceedings, and it will be subject to review by administrative justice”.

However, after this decision, the Registry office refused to register the birth. Therefore, lawyers of the Fund prepared a petition to the court for invalidation of actions of the Civil Registry Department for refusing to register the birth of a child and commitment of the Civil Registry Department to register the birth of a child and issue a birth certificate.

Finally, the Administrative Court of the Transcarpathian region issued a decision that ordered the state department of civil registration in Mukachevo district to register the fact of birth of Mila Kerp and issue her a birth certificate.

For some, it is simply a banal and uninteresting thing. We never think about some problem or obstacle, as long as it does not happen to us. For the Roma girl, this day is a holiday. She receive a birth certificate and therefore was issued a passport. She will do it the same way for her children. Only now she can enjoy all the privileges offered by our country: education, medicine, work. Those are the privileges that are the norm for some, and the unattainable goal for others.

However, more importantly, the question remains whether or not it could be avoided. More than 2 years running around the circle, lawsuits, money and nerves only through the desire of public authorities to make human rights a priority, not the ability to interpret the legislation differently? Whether the representatives of the Civil Registry will make conclusions and finally realize that they are giving people the “runaround”, which can break someone’s fate? Will our government finally begin to work for the people, not just the people for the government?

The press center of the Charitable fund “Progress”