Statelessness is a legal anomaly that affects over half a million people in Europe. Despite the scale of the problem, countries across Europe have very different approaches to dealing with statelessness, which means that there is currently no consistent, clear or comprehensive approach to identifying people without a nationality, granting protection or citizenship, nor preventing new cases of statelessness from arising.
What’s more, it’s very difficult to find information on different countries that is clear, up-to-date, and succinct. To fill this gap, ENS has produced a new online tool called the Statelessness Index that for the first time assesses a country’s approach against international norms and good practice and enables instant comparison between different countries in the region.
Here are five things you need to know to help you use the Index in your day-to-day work:
1.) WHAT IS THE INDEX and HOW TO USE IT?
The Index is an online tool that provides extensive country by country analysis of law, policy and practice, which has been benchmarked against international norms and good practice and then assessed using five categories, ranging from the most positive to the most negative. It allows users to quickly understand which areas of law, policy and practice can be improved by states and which can be looked to as examples of good practice in addressing statelessness.
If you are interested in the detail of how a country performs in its efforts to protect stateless people and prevent and reduce statelessness, you can select a country page and review its performance under all five themes and subthemes.
In addition, the Index allows users to instantly compare the performance of up to four countries using the comparator tool. To make this easier, the information has been split into five themes (International and Regional Instruments; Statelessness Population Data; Statelessness Determination and Status; Detention; and Prevention and Reduction) and then further divided into relevant subthemes to try to capture the right level of detail across different countries with different contexts and legal systems.
2.) WHY A STATELESSNESS INDEX?
The Index for the first time provides free and accessible, user-friendly information that highlights not only legislative gaps, but also where possible, gaps in implementation. Critically, the Index is designed to facilitate effective monitoring and advocacy and to support governments to comply with their international and regional obligations.
The Index will be an important tool for different audiences. It can support civil society organisations and lawyers helping people affected by nationality problems or advocating with decision-makers for reform; government officials drafting new procedures can look to the Index for examples of good practice from neighbouring countries; students and academics can use it in their research; and stateless people will be able to access important information about their rights and entitlements.
There are other invaluable online databases that examine citizenship law, detention policy and practice, and integration policies, for example. And thematic or comparative research on statelessness has been undertaken in specific countries. But our Index is the first to bring together comprehensive and accessible comparative analysis of European countries’ efforts to address statelessness.
3.) HOW IS THE COUNTRY DATA GATHERED and ANALYSED?
The country data is gathered through a detailed survey, structured around the themes and subthemes. The surveys are completed by country experts, referenced with links to sources, reviewed by a second country expert, and then returned to the ENS Secretariat for analysis. The country data is collated and analysed centrally by two members of the ENS Secretariat, who individually assess and benchmark each country’s performance under each question in the survey against the norms and good practice identified. To find out more about the methodology behind the Index click here.
As well as checking performance and comparing countries on the main site, users can also download the original country surveys containing all the data, including links and references to national law and policy, as well as details of the norms and good practices, which formed the basis of the assessment of a country’s performance. Publishing this data and the sources behind the Index not only helps to ensure transparency, but will also support the work of researchers, lawyers and other experts.
4.) WHO PRODUCES THE INDEX?
The Statelessness Index was designed and is actively maintained by ENS in partnership with a network of members, partners, ENS volunteers and consultants (you can read a list of those involved here). The data and research behind the Index relies on the extensive knowledge and expertise of the ENS membership. ENS members involved in the Index as country experts include researchers, lawyers, NGOs and other civil society actors. You can see who the country researchers are on each country page.
Second country experts include lawyers, academics and in some cases representatives from UNHCR offices with relevant country-level expertise. However, the final information presented in the Index is by ENS alone and should not be construed to formally represent the position of UNHCR or other external contributors.
All of this wouldn’t be possible without financial support from Oak Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), for which we are extremely grateful.
5.) FUTURE PLANS FOR THE INDEX
Currently the Index offers comparative data for 12 countries: France, Germany, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, The Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Ukraine, but we will be adding more countries soon.
ENS is working with its members and partners to develop the Index and welcomes all feedback on any aspect from its users. We want the tool to be as useful as it can be. Each year, ENS intends to increase the coverage of the Index, with six more countries to be added by the end of 2018. We will also continue to work with our members and partners to develop other useful resources from the Index data, such as policy briefings, training packages, and awareness raising materials. If you have ideas about how the Index could be developed in the future, please tell us!