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ERRC Joins Call to End Childhood Statelessness in Europe

22 November 2016

Budapest, London, 22 November 2016: Today the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), representing over fifty civil society organisations from across Europe, including the European Roma Rights Centre, will hand over a petition to members of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe calling on European leaders to commit to ending childhood statelessness.

“In terms of statelessness, Roma are without a doubt the most over-represented ethnic group in Europe by numbers of stateless children. We already face enough problems from anti-Gypsyism in its many guises across the continent - being born without a nationality means our children are even further denied social, educational and healthcare services, as well as being stigmatised and pushed further towards the margins of society. It is time for governments to take responsibility and end this harmful situation for the next generation.”  - ERRC President Ðorđe Jovanović

The petition which received over 21,000 signatures highlights the need to protect thousands of children in Europe from the scourge of statelessness, and is a part of a wider campaign bringing together a broad spectrum of actors mounting pressure on European countries to reform their nationality laws which prevent children from acquiring a nationality. This campaign will see national level events in Italy, Poland, Slovenia, France, UK, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia among other countries.

Roma are all too often the victims of systems which lead to them being without a nationality. Whether this is through asylum issues or institutional barriers, Roma often face real obstacles in registering for identification documentation which allows them to exercise their rights as citizens.

Childhood statelessness remains an issue across Europe, and thousands of children are left without a nationality due to legal loopholes and states’ failure to properly apply relevant safeguards. Romani children are among the most vulnerable and will frequently be unable to acquire nationality because of their parents’ lack of documentation. Research carried out by ENS revealed that children born to parents without a nationality often inherit their parents’ statelessness. Fewer than half of all European countries have fully incorporated necessary safeguards into domestic laws to fulfil their international obligation to protect the right of every child to acquire a nationality.

Abandoned and orphaned children where the parents’ nationality is not known can also be at risk, as can children who go through international adoption arrangements and those who have arrived in Europe as refugees.

Stateless children often find their problems compounded by their lack of nationality. Statelessness Romani children have to contend not only with societal discrimination, but thelimited access to healthcare and education statelessness brings. These problems only increase as they progress towards adulthood and face systemic, discriminatory practices which exacerbate the disadvantages caused by being without a nationality.

For more information contact:

Jonathan Lee
Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
jonathan.lee@errc.org
+36 30 500 2118

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

  • The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) is a network of non-governmental organisations, academic initiatives, and individual experts committed to address statelessness in Europe. Based in London, ENS is a coordinating body and expert resource for organisations across Europe who work with or come into contact with stateless persons. It currently has over 100 members in 39 European countries.
  • “Working together to end childhood statelessness in Europe” event hosted by Jean Lambert MEP will take place at the Members salon, European Parliament in Strasbourg (22 November from 5pm). The programme will include address by the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks.
  • A stateless person is someone who has no nationality. The UN Refugee Agency has estimated that there are over 10 million stateless persons worldwide. Some 600,000live in Europe. Yet statelessness remains a relatively hidden and little understood issue. With both government and civil society organisations often unaware of the problem, many stateless persons find themselves stuck in the margins of society without respect for their basic human rights. As part of efforts to tackle this, UNHCR recently launched its #iBelong initiative seeking the global eradication of statelessness within a decade.
  • To find out more about the issue you can read the recent ENSresearch publication “No child should be Stateless”. You can also read more about the issue on the #StatelessKids campaign website
  • The petition calling on European states to end childhood statelessness is available online here. It urges all urges all European states to:
    • Accede to the UN 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness;
    • Address gaps in their laws and practice in order to implement comprehensive safeguards to identify and grant nationality to children born on their territory who would otherwise be stateless, as soon as possible after birth;
    • Ensure access to free and universal birth registration in order to prevent statelessness.

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