Building a statelessness campaign in Spain: How we did it and why

Aleksandra Semeriak Gavrilenok, Individual ENS member and formerly stateless person
/ 4 mins read

From ancient proverbs to famous quotes from anthropologists, philosophers, politicians or entrepreneurs, people have long acknowledged the benefits of teamwork. Working together allows you to optimize processes and resources, generate new opportunities and achieve more ambitious goals. A clear example of this is our coalition of Spain-based organizations and individuals, members of the European Network on Statelessness, which has been established as a key working group to address statelessness in asylum and refugee contexts in Spain. This blog discusses how the coalition was born, who is involved, and what needs to happen for real change to come about in the Spanish context.

Read this post in Spanish.

Desplazamientos Apátridas

The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. In these ten years of work, ENS has managed to bring together more than 180 members from 41 countries who believe in and share the objective of improving the protection of stateless people and reducing cases of statelessness in Europe and around the world. During this time, numerous conferences, conventions, seminars, and webinars have been organized by the ENS to create meeting points between its members, allowing us to learn more about the work carried out in other countries, to exchange good practices, and, above all, to detect new strategies to deal with the legal challenges that accompany most cases of statelessness.

Inspired by the work being done at the European level and motivated by our commitment to ensure that stateless refugees arriving in Europe have effective access to rights, we, a group of four individual and organizational ENS members based in Spain, met in September 2021 to discuss opportunities for collaboration on statewide initiatives related to the Stateless Journeys campaign that ENS was developing. Since then, we have been meeting periodically to work on awareness-raising activities, community engagement, training on statelessness and social and political advocacy actions, setting common areas of work to carry out our Desplazamientos Apátridas campaign.

The Desplazamientos Apátridas campaign acts within the broader framework of the European Stateless Journeys campaign and requests the urgent reform of the Regulation for the recognition of stateless status in Spain, to guarantee that the protection needs of applicants for stateless status are covered from a human rights perspective. Through an exhaustive analysis of the Spanish legislation on the protection of stateless persons in the context of asylum, we, the members of the coalition, have developed a campaign statement and a policy briefing, which include the needs of stateless refugees and show how statelessness is relevant to those working in the field of asylum and migration in Spain.

In addition, one of the main objectives of the Desplazamientos Apátridas campaign is to facilitate the participation of stateless people in the design of related actions and in decision-making, creating a space for empowerment in which to share their experiences, achievements, and difficulties. Promoting change at the legislative and political level to allow people without a nationality to be recognized as citizens with full rights cannot happen without the insights and perspectives of people directly affected by statelessness.

This need to not only talk about statelessness, but to involve stateless people in the conversation, was highlighted on numerous occasions at the event "Improving the protection of stateless refugees" that ENS held on October 27 2022 in Brussels. This idea was particularly prominent during the panel on change and action inspired by stateless changemakers and civil society, in which our coalition was able to share the work that it has been carrying out in Spain, particularly the gathering of case studies that demonstrate the need for legislative reform and give visibility to the experiences and challenges of stateless refugees in our territory. The stories of Salka, Ali, Moustafa, Mohamed and Alberto are just a small example of the great challenges that stateless refugees face in their daily lives in Spain.

We, the Spain-based coalition for Desplazamientos Apátridas, as members of the ENS, as well as other akin organizations, such as the Apatride Network and Statefree, are convinced that facilitating this space for participation of stateless persons, who are usually excluded from the enjoyment and exercise of their civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights, is key to closing the existing gaps and inspiring the necessary collective action at the regional and national level to protect people stateless refugees and resolve statelessness.

Our commitment to the inclusion of stateless people is also visible in the composition of the coalition itself. Among the seven current members we include organizations with experience in the field of asylum, individual experts, and representatives of stateless communities, offering a unique forum for cooperation between the non-governmental and community sector, legal experts, and stateless activists to address the issue.

However, our objective is not only to seek the resolution of the problem that concerns us; it is also to offer a support network that allows communication, active listening and understanding between the involved actors. For this reason, our group remains open to new members interested in supporting the work of the ENS in Spain, who can apply to join the Desplazamientos Apátridas coalition.

In a few months we will have the opportunity to talk about the work of our coalition at the conference "Addressing Statelessness in Europe: Closing Protection Gaps and Realising Everyone’s Right to a Nationality", which will take place in Madrid 8-9 June, organized by the ENS and Fundación Cepaim (a member of our coalition), and hosted by the Universidad Complutense Madrid. The conference aims to promote the necessary changes for European countries to comply with their obligations to protect stateless persons and guarantee their access to the right to a nationality.

While we are looking forward to meeting you in Madrid, we invite you to join the Desplazamientos Apátridas campaign and learn more about the work our coalition members - Accem, Asociación Juvenil Colectivo Saharaui Lefrig, Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat (CCAR), Convive Fundación Cepaim, Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes (SJM), Aurelia Álvarez and Aleksandra Semeriak – have been doing.

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