The International Observatory on Statelessness

Czech Republic

An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 Roma resides in the Czech Republic, an unknown number of whom are stateless. A 1992 citizenship law led to statelessness for some residents in the Czech Republic, especially Roma considered Slovaks. Many of those affected by this law previously held Czechoslovakian citizenship and thousands were impacted by this legislation. While Slovakia decided that all former Czechoslovakian citizens could receive Slovak citizenship if they desired, regardless of where they had been living on the day of the split, the Czech Republic deemed that all those with Czech state citizenship from the former Czechoslovakia automatically received Czech national citizenship. But those with Slovak state citizenship, even if they had been living in the Czech Republic, had to apply for Czech national citizenship through naturalization, which included a series of stringent requirements.

This law greatly affected Roma because approximately 95 percent of the Czech Republic’s Roma had moved to the Czech Republic from Slovakia after World War II. Few had changed their citizenship in the intervening years and were thus considered Slovak citizens under the new law. This also affected children, as they too were considered Slovak citizens, even if they were born in Czech Republic territory.

The law also stated that all children under fifteen years old were included on the applications of their parents and that both parents had to agree that the child apply for citizenship. Hundreds of children reside in the Czech Republic’s orphanages, many of whom are Roma of Slovak origin. This law left such children stateless. In 1999, the Czech Republic amended its citizenship law to allow Roma who were permanent residents in the Czech Republic at the time of the country’s division to become citizens.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern that the rights of Roma, stateless, and immigrant children to access education and health were vague, which could result in discriminationand violence toward these groups. The Committee also noted concern that the number of children in institutions was growing and that a high number of them were stateless and disabled.