Personal story: I never knew life without documents could be so difficult 

Lack of citizenship can be a serious obstacle in finding a job even if a person has all the required skills and background. This is what happened to another character of our project Galina Ivanova from Tajikistan (name was changed per her request), who we talked to under our Without Borders project, and who does not have a single chance of professional self-realization due to the absence of citizenship documents.
Asya Akimzhanova

January 12th, 2021

Presently I live in Tajikistan. I followed my husband; it is his home country. In fact, in 2010 we all moved here from Russia – me, my future husband (our marriage was not yet registered then) and our oldest son. I crossed the border of the country with my Ukrainian passport, I was born in Kharkov oblast where I also attended school for 11 years and graduated a technical construction school.

I lost my passport after having lived in Tajikistan for several years. It might sound strange but these days I cannot even recall how I lost my passport. I think we went to the airport to pick up relatives and it was a hurry-scurry, something kept on happening. After we returned home and after some time passed I discovered that my passport was missing.

difficulties, documents, lack of citizenship, lack of documents, Tajikistan
The most important thing is that I never could have imagined that my life without a passport would turn out to be so difficult … extremely difficult
It has been almost six years that I lived in a status of a stateless person. All these years I could not restore my citizenship papers. First of all, I reached out to the local police department who referred me to the Embassy of Ukraine. Then, through the Ukrainian Embassy I have sent a request to Ukraine. I waited for a long while for the answer which never came. That was when an open military conflict broke in Eastern Ukraine and they probably couldn’t care less about common people’s problems, who, on top of everything, lived outside of Ukraine. The Embassy gave me a paper stating that I was no longer a citizen of Ukraine. Meanwhile, I tried to prove the opposite – that I was the citizen of Ukraine, for I had spent most of my life there, my first home was there and my parents still lived there.

Having found myself in this predicament I decided to write a letter to the president asking for his help. In summer of 2017 the staff of “Right and Prosperity” public association came to my aid to try to solve my problems. Firstly, they offered me counselling along with a list of documents I needed to collect and, secondly, they helped me fill in all the necessary forms.

I have two sons, the oldest has a birth certificate from Russian Federation and the youngest whom I birthed here is a citizen of the Republic of Tajikistan, he is in 3rd grade of school. I was given a lawyer so that he could help get a birth certificate for the youngest and determine paternity for the oldest son. We have already had several successful court hearings and as a result my youngest son now has his birth certificate from Tajikistan and my husband’s paternity over the oldest son has been established and a request to Russian Federation seeking issuance of a birth certificate indicating the name of the father and new personal data has been sent. In June 2020 I have submitted my papers to the Tajikistan Ministry of Interior’s Passports and Registration Service Department of Citizenship and Refugees and after having supplied necessary certificates I have received a residence permit allowing me to stay legally in Tajikistan.

Every time they would say the same: “You must contact a law enforcement agency of your country”, or “You must go back to Ukraine” despite the fact that there was no such an opportunity for me then – the war was raging in the East of Ukraine. All the meanwhile I had this question in my head: “I have lived in Tajikistan for nearly 10 years, my whole family lives here, then how come a piece of paper overrules these not unimportant factors?”

Given my statelessness it is very difficult for me to find a job. Before I tried to find some small contracts, did mostly repairs or refurbishing works. Also, I speak two languages and I received offers to work at school or kindergarten which would be immediately withdrawn once the other party learnt about my statelessness.

It all deteriorated during the pandemic
Our family’s financial situation grew very unstable in the course of the year. I am unemployed, my husband is a migrant worker in Arkhangelsk and because of the COVID 19 pandemic he can no longer find a permanent job and hence no remittance is coming from him. My oldest son volunteered to join the Armed Forces of Tajikistan and, as a result, I am unable to pay the bills. Internet at home was recently disconnected.

I am not good at politics and political processes but I really do not understand why simple people have to suffer so much? I know many people who are in a similar situation, for instance my next door neighbor had no passport for more than 20 years of her life in Tajikistan. I hope her problems will resolve soon and I wish that organizations similar to UNHCR and NGOs that work with stateless persons could help all those in need get their passports and enjoy their right to a regular life. My problems are nearing their end– last week I have submitted remaining portion of the documents and they promised that an answer would be ready in a week. Any day now that they will call me to confirm that residence permit for a stateless person is ready and that I can collect it. However, in the meantime I remain to be a stateless person and in two and a half years I will be able to apply for the citizenship of the Republic of Tajikistan.

The situation of this story’s character and hundreds more is being resolved thanks to passing in Tajikistan the Amnesty Law that allows foreign nationals and stateless persons illegally arriving to the Republic of Tajikistan to regularize their stay. The Law passed on December 25, 2019 grants amnesty to the stateless persons, former citizens of the Soviet Union, who are illegally residing in the country exempting them from administrative penalties for irregular stay as well as criminal liability for illegal crossing of the border. The Amnesty Law also grants an opportunity to seek residence permits prior to applying for citizenship.

According to the information of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as of October 2020 the number of persons with undetermined nationality was over 5,000. The numbers change all the time due to identification and registration of new stateless persons, as well as due to assistance provided to stateless persons on regularizing their stay. The majority of such individuals are women and girls – 70%, while in terms of age characteristics 38% of them are minors.

Illustrations: Sokhail Amir Layan

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