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Justice for thousands of “erased” people after 20 years without rights

Kurić and Others v. Slovenia  | 2012

Justice for thousands of “erased” people after 20 years without rights

I do not care about money, I just want justice and I want to prove to the children that I did not leave them

Ana Mezga, reported by Delo - © Photo Aleš Černivec / Slovenske Novice

Background

Ana Mezga moved from Croatia to Slovenia when she was 14. She went to school, got a job and started a family with two children. However, on 26 February 1992, thirteen years after her arrival, she had her residency status automatically taken away – along with 25,671 other people.

After Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, citizens of other former Yugolsav republics living in the country were given a deadline to acquire Slovenian citizenship. According to Mrs Mezga, she had no idea that she was meant to do this. Those who failed to get citizenship automatically lost their “permanently resident” status– without being notified.

Suddenly, the “erased” became foreign citizens or stateless people living illegally in Slovenia. Many had their papers taken away, were evicted from apartments, could not work or travel, lost personal possessions or lived in poor conditions.

According to Ana Mezga, she lost her job, had her apartment seized and her two children were taken away into foster care. She worked on the black market, but as a result she could not obtain health insurance. This meant that she gave birth to two children without ever seeing a doctor. She said that, due to her sense of guilt at losing her two older children, she tried to commit suicide several times.  

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court ruled that the Slovenian legal system did not properly regulate the status of the “erased” people until 2010. Due to this legal uncertainty, and the fact that the “erased” could not legally live or work in the country, these people were exposed to extreme hardship for almost 20 years with no chance of resolving their situation. The unlawful and disproportionate actions of the government had been discriminatory and violated the applicants’ right to private and family life.

Follow-up

Laws were changed to make sure that the “erased” people could obtain the right to live in Slovenia. Over 10,000 people were given citizenship or permanent residency. A new compensation scheme was also introduced, totaling many millions of euros.

In 2011 Ana Mezga was given the right to permanently live in Slovenia. She was also awarded 62,240 euros in compensation.