“Everyone has the right to a nationality”

CONFERENCE: Addressing Statelessness in Europe: Closing Protection Gaps and Realising Everyone’s Right to a Nationality

COVID-19 CONFERENCE POSTPONEMENT UPDATE: After consulting with confirmed speakers, and given the ongoing uncertainty, we have decided it would be sensible for now to proceed with two possible alternative dates. Taking account of all speakers’ availability, we are proposing to hold the conference on either 24-25 September 2020 or 15-16 October 2020. Following a further risk assessment, we aim to confirm the final date and commence re-advertising for the conference by mid-June.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused but we are encouraged by the fact that we have received over 230 registrations from across Europe, and we will do our utmost to run the postponed conference with as many existing speakers and participants as possible.

About the conference

The European Network on Statelessness (ENS), in collaboration with Fundación Cepaim, will bring together key actors at a major regional conference to galvanise action to identify and address the protection gaps facing stateless people in Europe. A regional approach is urgently needed to realise everyone’s right to a nationality and end the discrimination faced by many, including children, minority groups, and refugees, in their access to citizenship.

Serving as a platform to launch new comparative analysis on statelessness in Europe, the conference will kick-off with an evening reception and address by Nansen Award-winner, Azizbek Ashurov, at the Casa Mediterráneo in Alicante. This will be followed by two days of workshops and plenaries at the University of Alicante aiming to identify new solutions, and galvanise a regional strategy to address current gaps and problems. The choice of a venue in Spain will also serve as a catalyst for reform of the Spanish statelessness determination procedure, one of the first to be established in Europe but which needs updating and improvement.

Conference Programme

About the issue

A stateless person is someone who has no nationality, someone who is not recognised as a citizen by any State. Statelessness affects over half a million people in Europe – both people on the move and those who have lived in the same place for generations – denying many their fundamental rights. Its causes include state succession, gaps in nationality laws, discrimination, displacement, and nationality stripping.

Despite the extent of the problem, many states still lack robust policies to address statelessness. Critically, only a handful of countries in Europe have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure to identify people on their territory without a nationality and to offer appropriate protection status (including residence and other rights under the 1954 Convention) and subsequent naturalisation. Moreover, recent data shows that statelessness is a growing problem that needs to be addressed as part of Europe’s refugee response. According to Eurostat, nearly 100,000 people who applied for asylum in the European Union in 2015-2018 were recorded as ‘stateless’ or of ‘unknown nationality’.

Accessing different routes to protection can be more difficult for stateless people due to their marginalisation and lack of documentation. Stateless refugees and migrants are often wrongly assigned a nationality by officials at registration based on their country of origin or language or may be recorded as having ‘unknown’ nationality. The result can be a failure to identify (and prevent) the risk of statelessness among children born in exile, or barriers to protection, family reunification and naturalisation. A stateless person with no right to residence often has no country they can return to, so if their statelessness is not identified, they can face repeated, futile removal attempts and prolonged detention.

Speakers & workshops

The conference will host a range of speakers and contributors with extensive expertise from different countries, backgrounds and specialisms covering themes such as forced migration and statelessness, children’s nationality rights, statelessness determination and protection, promoting the voices of people affected by statelessness, detention, country of origin information, discrimination, antigypsyism, and human rights monitoring and advocacy mechanisms. Details of workshop themes and confirmed contributors can be found in the draft programme.

Confirmed plenary speakers include (with more to be confirmed soon):

Juan Fernando López Aguilar MEP

Chair of European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE)

Ksenija Turković

Judge, European Court of Human Rights

Christophe Poirel

Director for Human Rights, Council of Europe

Katarzyna Gardapkhadze

First Deputy Director, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

Azizbek Ashurov

Director, Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders

Chris Nash

Director, European Network on Statelessness

Ángeles Solanes Corella

Professor, University of Valencia

Nina Murray

Head of Policy and Research, European Network on Statelessness

Gábor Gyulai

Refugee Programme Director, Hungarian Helsinki Committee

Aleksandra Semeriak

Individual ENS Member and formerly stateless person

Amal de Chickera

Co-Director, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion

Yonous Muhammadi

President & Coordinator, Greek Forum of Refugees

Tamás Molnár

Legal Officer, Fundamental Rights Agency

Aurelia Álvarez Rodríguez

Professor of International Private Law, University of León

Francisco Ortiz Álvarez

Protection Associate, UNHCR Spain

Ignacio Hernández Moreno

Partnerships, Advocacy and International Relations, Fundación Cepaim

Jean Lambert

ENS Trustee and former Member of the European Parliament

Funders & partners

ENS and Fundación Cepaim are grateful to European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), Oak Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust, Casa Mediterráneo and the University of Alicante for their support of this event.