The applicant was born in 1984 in the Republic of Croatia and her birth was registered, but she never acquired citizenship. The case concerns her subsequent acquisition of citizenship as a stateless person with permanent residence.
- Croatian Citizenship Act
- Security Clearance Act
- General Administrative Procedure Act
- Administrative Disputes Act
- 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness
- European Convention on Human Rights
- 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons
- Foreigners Act
The applicant was born in 1984 in the Republic of Croatia. At birth, she was only registered in the birth registry books. Her mother, born in 1966 in Sisak (Croatia) and her father, born in 1960 in Međuvođe (Bosnia and Herzegovina), were not registered in the citizenship registry books at the time of birth, and therefore the applicant was born stateless.
On 7 January 2014, the applicant received a positive decision granting her permanent residence in Croatia, according to Article 79(1) of the Act on Movement and Stay of Foreigners in Croatia (Official Gazette 53/91, 22/92, 26/93 and 29/94). The request for permanent residence was submitted based on Article 94(1)(4) of the Foreigners Act (Official Gazette 74/13) due to continuity of residence and birth in Croatia. After the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) decided to grant her permanent residence status, the applicant was provided with a foreigner’s ID.
In September 2018, the applicant requested a travel document for stateless persons, in accordance with the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which was issued by the Ministry of the Interior in January 2019, after the conduction of security checks, conducted by the Security Intelligence Agency.
In January 2016, the applicant applied for Croatian citizenship. In June 2017, she was refused citizenship due to a negative opinion of the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA). The applicant appealed to the Administrative Court in Zagreb (Number: UsI-2633/17-6) on 7 September 2017 and a positive decision was brought on 27 March 2019, by which the case was sent back for new first instance procedure. Importantly, the Court says that given the assessment of the case by the Security Intelligence Agency, the Court could not conclude that the applicant did not respect the legal system of the Republic of Croatia. The Ministry of the Interior brought the new decision, which was positive for the applicant, granting her Croatian citizenship (MOI, No: UP/I-224-02/17-01/2856; 511-01-203-19-37 from 6 February 2020), obtained on 21 February 2020.
Article 9 of the Croatian Citizenship Act (Official Gazette 53/91, 70/91, 28/92, 113/93, 4/94, 130/11, 110/15) stipulates that a foreigner can acquire Croatian citizenship if he/she is born on the territory, live on the territory and has regulated permanent residence, which is similarly stipulated in the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
The applicant was born in 1984 in Croatia (ex-Yugoslavia) and she has never left Croatia. She speaks and writes Croatian. She was undocumented for 30 years. She is a mother of four children, who are all Croatian citizens.
A similar case can be found in the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights, Hoti v. Croatia - the applicant underwent different administrative challenges to regularise his status for over 20 years.
The applicant never had a criminal record.
The MOI brought a negative decision for granting Croatian citizenship based on a negative opinion of the Security Intelligence Agency. This decision is based on Article 26(2) of the Croatian Citizenship Act, which says that the request for acquisition or termination of citizenship, even if the other criteria are met, may be rejected if there are reasons of interest to the Republic of Croatia to reject a request for acquisition or termination of citizenship.
The MOI reasoned as follows:
“In his discretion, the defendant decided to reject the request because of the negative opinion of the Security Intelligence Agency. The defendant, due to the existence of a negative opinion, took the view that although all the criteria prescribed by the act were met, there are reasons of interest to the Republic of Croatia for which the application for citizenship should be rejected. Therefore, the defendant refuses the request, although at the time of the decision the defendant was not aware of the concrete reasons why the Security Intelligence Agency refuses to give a positive opinion."
The Court reasoned as follows:
“The explanation of the decision states that the Court reviewed the SIA's file and found that it consisted of elements stating that the applicant did not meet the requirements of Article 8(1)(5), which is respecting legal order and national security. This fact is based by MOI on Article 26(2) of Croatian Citizenship Act and Article 23(1) of the Security Intelligence System of the Republic of Croatia Act, which stipulate that MOI may reject requests if they find it against the interest of Republic of Croatia."
The Administrative Court asserted that a negative decision on Croatian citizenship cannot be brought on a discretion and undocumented opinion of a third party.
On 27 March 2019, the Administrative Court Zagreb brought a positive decision (Usl-2633/17) after the administrative lawsuit was filed in 2017. In the decision, the Court stated that the MOI have 60 days to bring a new decision. The new decision was positive for the applicant. As a result, the applicant obtained Croatian citizenship.