Hunger strike draws attention to Slovenia's problematic citizenship law

About ten days ago a hunger strike in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana drew attention to the problems of people who have become known as "the erased." They are the 18,000 people from the former Yugoslavia - mostly Serbs, Croats and Bosnians - who were simply erased from the record books. They were living in Slovenia when it declared independence from Yugoslavia.

So, how could so many people be erased from the register of residents in Slovenia? They did not apply for citizenship within a prescribed period after Slovenia's independence in 1991 but they had their legal residence in Slovenia and were entitled to continue their life in Slovenia - although from that time on as foreigners. However, a year later the Ministry of Interior erased them from the register of permanent residents in Slovenia, without saying a word to those concerned. Through this, they lost their health insurance, their jobs and could not look for a new one as their passports and other documents were destroyed. Eleven years later, the Constitutional court declared this deletion illegal, and ordered the immediate retroactive return of their status. But not much has happened since the ruling; the legal adviser of the association of the erased residents in Slovenia and former judge of the Constitutional court Matevz Krivic:

"In Slovenia, something totally incredible for a democratic country with a rule of law is happening: the current right-wing government is directly rejecting the fulfilment of more decisions of the Constitutional court, made in favour of the rights of over 18.000 "erased" former Yugoslav citizens. And even worse: the right-wing politicians are demanding even the resignation of the ombudsman who insists on immediate fulfilment of the decisions of the Constitutional court, and the government is also totally ignoring the identical warnings of the Commissioner of the Council of Europe for human rights Alvaro Gil Robles."

Views on how to achieve the fulfilment of their rights differ among the erased and a small group, which has other ideas of achieving their rights compared to the majority of the erased, decided to go on a five - day hunger strike and they demanded to talk to a delegation of members of parliament and the head of the delegation of the European Commission in Slovenia Erwan Fouere. The strike ended after three days, when politicians promised to find a solution. Another reason the strike was actually started was to gain media attention. Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa made clear that his government is going to resolve the issue of the erased only through a special Constitutional act, if he gets the necessary majority in parliament. If not he will postpone the resolution of this problem:

"The government is now trying to by-pass illegally these juridical decisions by preparing a special "Constitutional Law on the Erased" - although the president of the Constitutional court warned publicly that such an attempt is not allowed and will fail. And the left-wing opposition also declared very clearly that it will not participate in such a shameful attempt to violate the basic principles of the rule of law - and European values at the same time."

At the 13th anniversary of the illegal deletion in February the association of the erased residents of Slovenia made a public appeal to the Slovenian and European authorities and also filed a formal petition to the European Parliament and as Matevz Krivic puts it:

"The expected help from outside remains now almost our only hope."