Boban, 33, from Macedonia living in Belgium

“I wouldn’t wish this kind of life on my worst enemy.” 

As a stateless citizen in Macedonia, Boban was not entitled to his fundamental rights. In search of these rights, he left his native country behind and has now been recognised by the Belgian courts as stateless. Nevertheless, this does not automatically give Boban the right to a residence permit. He claimed asylum in several other EU countries but was always sent back to Belgium, where he lives on the streets and does not receive any social support. Boban was in a detention centre twice, but as the Macedonian authorities do not acknowledge him as one of their citizens they will not let him return. Eight years later, he is still undocumented, still unreturnable, and still without a future.

Nothing to lose

I came to Belgium at the end of 2005. I hoped that, as a member of the EU, Belgium would offer me the possibility of a real life. I was born in Macedonia without citizenship, because my family and I are Roma. I have been discriminated against my entire life. I wasn’t allowed to attend secondary school, wasn’t allowed to work, didn’t have the right to social security, would never be allowed to marry…I had no rights, no life and no future – and that’s why I left.

I applied for asylum as soon as I arrived here, but two months later my application was refused because the authorities didn’t believe my story. I applied a second time but without result, after which I decided to apply for stateless status. The procedure is difficult and very slow; you need a good lawyer. It was only after three separate hearings, when the Macedonian Office of Internal Affairs finally confirmed that I didn’t have Macedonian citizenship and could never return, that I was recognised as a stateless person. That was back in 2009.

Status: stateless
Contrary to what I had hoped, the verdict didn’t change a thing. Statelessness does not give you the right to stay in Belgium – so I still didn’t have any rights. I still didn’t have a place to sleep, I still wasn’t allowed to work. In 2010, I applied for regularisation but I never even received a reply. My only other hope was to continue applying for asylum, which I did six times in total. Time after time my application was rejected.

I started to become desperate. What did they expect me to do? Where was I expected to go? I had run out of ideas. I tried turning to other countries for help, making my way to Luxemburg, Austria and Germany, but all they did was send me back to Belgium.
They’re just messing with me! It’s so frustrating, sometimes I cry from anger… This isn’t a game! I wouldn’t wish this kind of life on my worst enemy.

I was detained twice throughout the years because I didn’t have any documents. I was shocked to discover that even as a recognised stateless person, I could still be sent to a detention centre. The last time I applied for asylum the authorities suddenly decided to arrest me and lock me up – even though they knew I couldn’t be sent back! For three weeks we waited for the negative reply from Macedonia, after which they released me again. The asylum authorities have no mercy. It’s a game of cat and mouse!

You know what’s sad: most people can’t wait to be released from detention, but me, I didn’t want to leave. Better here than on the streets, I thought to myself. I had food, shelter, people were nice to me…What more could you ask for?

Imagining the future
For 33 years, this struggle has been my life…it’s almost impossible to imagine the future being any different. I just want to have a normal life. I want to be able to work and get married, have a family of my own. But when will this ever happen? I don’t know. Nobody does.

8 years in Belgium

Still undocumented and unreturnable because he is stateless