“Everyone has the right to a nationality”

The Quito Process and the urgency to address the right to a nationality and statelessness in the Americas

4 July 2019 | Jessica Ramirez, Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness (Red ANA)

The unprecedented number of migrants and refugees leaving Venezuela and moving throughout the American continent has put receiving countries’ legal frameworks and their ability to guarantee basic human rights to the test. We have seen efforts by governments in the region to foster a regional and coordinated response to Venezuelan displacement—primarily through the “Quito Process” which is a multilateral initiative of several Latin-American countries that aims to harmonize domestic policies in receiving countries.

So far, the Quito Process has resulted in two declarations and one action plan through which governments seek to meet the most crucial needs of the Venezuelan migrant and refugee population in the different countries of the region. However, there is one invisible and urgent issue that has not been addressed in any of the meetings of the Quito Process: the pressing risk of statelessness resulting from Venezuelan mixed migration dynamics. For instance, a great number of children born to Venezuelan parents in Colombia are stateless or at risk of statelessness. Colombia is the main destination country for migrants and refugees from Venezuela, and does not automatically grant birthright nationality to all children born within its borders.

The IV International Technical Meeting of the Quito Process will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 4-5. It is crucial that governments discuss the right to a nationality, statelessness and the risk of statelessness for children born to Venezuelan migrants and refugees.

In this regard, last week at the World Conference on Statelessness in the Hague, several organizations of the Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness (Red ANA), members of its executive committee and head of coordination, together with a group of prominent experts on statelessness from around the world drafted an Expert Statement on the Prevention and Eradication of Statelessness in the Americas. Thei statement is particularly directed at those participating in this week’s Quito Process meeting.

It explains five situations of concern that are creating statelessness and risk of statelessness for children born to Venezuelan parents. The experts drafted twelve recommendations for States, which are aligned with existing international obligations and applicable international standards.

It is important to highlight that Latin American States have demonstrated their willingness to carry out regional efforts to adapt and expand international protection standards to effectively respond to the current needs arising from international forced displacement. However, the meetings of the Quito Process have so far failed to reach any agreement or commitment concerning the right to a nationality and have left the issue of statelessness (and risk of statelessness) out of the discussion.

Historically, the Latin-American region has been able to learn from the crises of international forced displacement that the hemisphere has experienced, and has expanded its international protection standards in response to these crises. It is now urgent that the states take into consideration the Expert Statement, and use this particular forced displacement context to continue to advance the protection for stateless persons, those at risk of statelessness and the right to a nationality—not only for those leaving Venezuela but also for everyone else in the region whose right to a nationality is at risk of being violated.

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