Slovenia's "erased" - still struggling after all these years


Sixteen years have passed since around thirty thousand people living in Slovenia lost all their residency rights. They became known as the erased. These were people who vanished from the lists simply because they failed to register as Slovenia made the transition from Yugoslav Republic to independent state. At least seven people are reported to have committed suicide, while thousands lost their jobs. Many have since regained their residency rights but, as Ivana Pristavec reports, others remain outcasts.

The people known as »the erased« are from the former Yugoslavia - nationalities such as Serbs, Croats, Bosnians and even some Slovenians. Their loss of status as permanent residents also deprived them of numerous rights, making it hard for them to regain their legal status. Those outside the country could not return - those inside Slovenia could not leave. With no legal docmentation, survival was a struggle.

While other minorities, like the Hungarian and Italian, enjoy full status as permanent residents, the problem of the erased still hasn't been solved.

The director of Amnesty International Slovenia, Nataša Posel explains how the situation of »the erased« has changed over the years:

»In sixteen years much happened and in a way nothing changed for the erased. Amnesty International demands and urges Slovenian authorities to grant full reparation to all individuals effected by erasure. So although 12.000 of them have now their status, they still suffer from consequences from erasure and have this legal gap in their stay, they were removed from the labour market and so on.«

The government proposed a constitutional act for the erased which doesn't enable them to aquire status retroactively but further complicates the procedure of aquiring citizenship. It also closes the possibility of a monetary refund, because it states that an individual has to demand compensation within five years from the date of erasure. Since this act was proposed just recently, none of the erased meet these requirements, because they were erased from the records in 1992.

Most recently Studio Poper an organization for communication in the public sphere has begun helping the remaining erased and renewing awareness about the issue at home and abroad. The project made it possible for many people to read about individual cases on the internet. The director of the project Maja Hawlina came up with the idea of placing the stories of the erased on one of Ljubljana's most prominent buildings located in the centre of the city.

»First of all we want to articulate the problem of the erased people. We think this is often used for political discourse, one party against the other and that the issue of real people, real destinies which were tragic and unjust was neglected. We feel that people were informed only partially about them. Too much stress was on people who presumably didn't want to accept citizenship. We believe on the contrary that the majority of these people where really people who didn't know how to react, who lost their rights unjustly.«

Asked whether the problem of the erased will have a positive conclusion in the near future, the director of Amnesty International Slovenia, Nataša Posel says that remains in doubt..

»It is very difficult to predict anything in this regard, because several governments have changed meanwhile and none of them was brave enough or has taken the issue seriously enough to make serious steps to resolve it. We can only hope that the public oppinion changes and that people become aware of what had really happened to the erased.«