Just over a month since we returned from three inspiring days in Budapest discussing and deliberating with our members and allies over how to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention in Europe, it feels like an opportune moment to provide an update on where we are at with plans for our #LockedInLimbo campaign and advocacy work.
The atmosphere at the European Youth Centre in Budapest during the conference was one of solidarity; of a desire to empower and give voice to the stateless women, men and children who find themselves locked up in legal limbo around Europe; and, of a drive to find solutions. Over three intense and thought-provoking days, encompassing a full day of strategizing with the ENS membership, and two public days of plenary debates and participatory workshops focused on detention with 115 civil society actors, government officials, UN agencies, academics and lawyers from right across the region, important commitments were made and a wealth of ideas put forward. This week we published a Conference Report on our website, which summarises all of the key debates that took place in Budapest, so be sure to take a look.
In the weeks since Budapest, the ENS Secretariat and #LockedInLimbo HQ has been a hive of activity. In fact, I’m writing this blog from Strasbourg, where ENS is currently taking part in an important hearing before the Committee for Legal Cooperation of the Council of Europe (CDCJ) to feed into the codification of standards for the administrative detention of migrants in Europe. Discussions with civil society and other key stakeholders today have called for a fundamentally different approach to migrant detention in Europe, a shift away from the criminalisation of migrants, and a focus on the protection of fundamental rights. We made sure that statelessness was on the agenda.
In addition to taking our #LockedInLimbo demands to the Council of Europe, we also met with key stakeholders in Berlin and Geneva earlier this month at the Global Conference on Children’s Rights, and the Annual UNHCR NGO Consultations, building support for the campaign and fostering opportunities for advocacy and partnerships. And we have worked with UNHCR this week to contribute language on statelessness to the ongoing review of the EU Returns Handbook. At the end of May we launched our #LockedInLimbo campaign microsite and blog series, and we are now just three signatures from 100 endorsements of our Joint Statement calling for urgent action to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention.
Our members, too, have already been hard at work pushing for engagement and reform at a national level. In Russia, ADC Memorial, played a key role in an important victory for the protection of stateless people from arbitrary detention when the Constitutional Court issued a judgement that will allow for review of the legality of detention after three months and require specific timeframes to be put in place for removal procedures. In Serbia, we are working with our member, Praxis, and others, to make a joint submission to the Universal Periodic Review, highlighting concerns that new legislation currently before the Serbian Parliament will increase the risk of arbitrary detention of stateless people.
Such examples provide a flavour of the advocacy plans we will soon be launching on the back of the campaign. Next week we’ll be putting the finishing touches to these and preparing to embark on work with our membership to drive forward the #LockedInLimbo calls for reform at both national and European levels. A range of individual and organisational commitments to contribute to advocacy efforts were made in Budapest, from the simple, such as writing to MEPs and PACE members or supporting the campaign on social media, to the more complex, such as seeking funding for country level advocacy on detention, hosting training and awareness raising sessions for national officials, or persuading authorities to incorporate statelessness as a juridically relevant fact into all decisions to detain. Over coming months, we will be working closely with a core group of our members to support this work, building up to an event we will host here at the Council of Europe in October, and fostering the regional shift we believe we can achieve through a collective push for reform to law, policy and practice to protect stateless people in Europe from arbitrary detention.