Why we need a strong voice to stop stateless people ending up #LockedInLimbo

Manlio Di Stefano, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
/ 7 mins read

I very much welcomed the opportunity to speak at the recent European Network on Statelessness (ENS) conference in Budapest on 4-5 May which launched their new report ‘Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention – An Agenda for Change’ and related #LockedInLimbo campaign.

Both the report and the conference higlighted many stories of those locked up in detention for long periods of time simply because they don’t have a nationality. The ENS report underlines how we are avoiding our international obligations to protect people with no nationality, and instead subjecting these men, women and even children, to unlawful detention.

Arbitrary detention has severe and long-lasting effects on the mental health of those detained. The stories I read about in the report are truly disturbing and distressing, and I believe that everyone would find it unacceptable if they knew what was happening in detention centres across Europe.

A growing number of my parliamentary colleagues are also becoming aware of the specific challenges facing stateless people and we will have further opportunity to focus on these concerns next month when I report back to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on this issue.

At the conference in Budapest I publicly signed and endorsed ENS’s #LockedInLimbo campaign statement which calls on European Governments to end the arbitrary detention of stateless people, and which outlines five key recommendations to help achieve this.

I believe we must all work together to achieve this fundamental goal, and would add my voice in encouraging other interested organisations to also sign the below statement and help support this important campaign.

You can endorse the statement online.

#LOCKEDINLIMBO STATEMENT - It’s time to end the arbitrary detention of stateless people in Europe

As the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) releases its new report, ‘Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention: An Agenda for Change’, at a major regional conference in Budapest on 4-5 May 2017, we, the undersigned, are calling on European governments to take urgent action to end the arbitrary detention of stateless people and those at risk of statelessness.

A consensus is building in Europe that the current use of immigration detention is unsustainable, harmful, and, in many cases, unlawful. The ENS report draws on research from six European countries, shining a light on systems and practices in which men, women, and children without a nationality are trapped. Many find themselves subjected to long term detention despite there being no reasonable prospect of return. Few are able to break this cycle and are therefore left in legal limbo for years.

We urge states to fulfil their international obligations towards stateless people and those at risk of statelessness by taking proactive steps to protect them from unlawful and arbitrary detention, and guarantee their fundamental rights and freedoms. Above all, it is imperative that states put in place effective procedures to identify and recognise statelessness, assess and respond to vulnerabilities at all stages of immigration proceedings, urgently implement community based alternatives to detention, and grant stateless people and those who cannot be removed a legal status and basic rights, including equal access to social security, employment, education, and healthcare.

The report makes a series of concrete recommendations in five priority areas for reform, so that law, policy and practice reflect - and apply without discrimination - international human rights standards. We hereby call on states to urgently bring about an end to the arbitrary immigration detention of stateless people in Europe, by:

  1. Implementing a range of alternatives to detention in line with international standards and good practice, improving guidance to ensure that statelessness is considered as a relevant factor in all decisions to detain, and that decisions adhere to international standards on the prohibition of arbitrary detention.
  2. Developing Statelessness Determination Procedures that meet international standards and good practice, are fully accessible to all those subject to their jurisdiction (including in detention), and which enable states to identify and grant protection to those recognised as stateless.
  3. Putting in place robust mechanisms to protect individuals’ rights, respond to vulnerabilities, and exercise the duty to not discriminate, including through prohibiting the detention of children and combatting gender and disability related discrimination.
  4. Facilitating integration in the community through providing protection from re-detention, access to basic rights and freedoms for those awaiting determination of their status, and regularisation and a facilitated route to naturalisation for those recognised as stateless.
  5. Improving recording and reporting on statelessness, building accountability into the operation of immigration detention systems, publishing disaggregated statistics, and facilitating access for independent monitoring bodies, lawyers and community members.

The European Network on Statelessness, and the below signatories, are committed to constructively working with governments, UN bodies and other stakeholders to help translate these recommendations into effective and enduring reform.

Download the PDF version - English, German, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Greek, Bulgarian, Romanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Albanian, Kurdish.


  1. Adam Weiss, Managing Director of the European Roma Rights Centre (Hungary)
  2. Adrian Berry, Chair of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association - ILPA (United Kingdom)
  3. Aleksandra Semeriak (Spain)
  4. Alexandra Gröller, CEO Diakonie Flüchtlingsdienst (Austria)
  5. Alison Harvey (United Kingdom)
  6. Allan Leas, Chair of the European Network on Statelessness (United Kingdom)
  7. Amal de Chickera, Co-Director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (United Kingdom)
  8. Anisa Metalla, Attorney at law at Tirana Legal Aid Society - TLAS (Albania)
  9. Arsenio García Cores, Lawyer (Spain)
  10. Barbara Joannon, Head of EU Affairs at Forum Réfugiés-Cosi (France)
  11. Caia Vlieks, PhD Researcher at Tilburg University (Netherlands)
  12. Catherine Blanchard, Senior Researcher at British Red Cross (United Kingdom)
  13. Catherine Cosgrave, Legal Services Manager at the Immigrant Council of Ireland (Ireland)
  14. Catherine Woollard, Secretary General of European Council on REfugees and Exiles - ECRE
  15. Celia Clarke, Director of Bail for Immigration Detainees (United Kingdom)
  16. Chris Nash, Director of the European Network on Statelessness (United Kingdom)
  17. Cynthia Orchard, Legal Policy Officer at Asylum Aid (United Kingdom)
  18. Danae Psilla, Advocacy Coordinator at Detention Action (United Kingdom)
  19. Daniela Di Rado, Italian Council for Refugees - CIR (Italy)
  20. Elena Rozzi, Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration - ASGI (Italy)
  21. Eric Fripp, Barrister at Lamb Building (United Kingdom)
  22. Erika Kalantzi (Greece)
  23. Eva Ersbøll, Senior researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Denmark)
  24. Eva Singer, Head of Asylum and Repatriation Department, Danish Refugee Council (Denmark)
  25. Fizza Qureshi, Director of the Migrants' Rights Network (United Kingdom)
  26. Gábor Gyulai, Refugee Programme Director at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Hungary)
  27. Professor Gerard-René de Groot, Emeritus Professor at Maastricht University (Netherlands)
  28. Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill, Emeritus Fellow at All Souls College (United Kingdom)
  29. Helena-Ulrike Marambio (Germany)
  30. Ivanka Kostic, Executive Director of Praxis (Serbia)
  31. Professor James Hathaway, University of Michigan Law School (United States)
  32. Jared Ficklin, Co-director of the Liverpool Law Clinic (United Kingdom)
  33. Jason Tucker, Post doctoral Researcher at Malmö University (Sweden)
  34. Jean Lambert, Member of the European Parliament (UK)
  35. Jem Stevens, Europe Regional Coordinator, International Detention Coalition - IDC
  36. Joanna Whiteman, Co-Director of Equal Rights Trust (United Kingdom)
  37. Judith Carter, In house Solicitor and Lecturer at Liverpool Law Clinic (United Kingdom)
  38. Jyothi Kanics, Research Fellow at University of Lucerne (Switzerland)
  39. Katarzyna Przybyslawska, President of Halina Niec Legal Aid Center (Poland)
  40. Kateryna Gaidei, Lawyer at Desyate Kvitnya (Ukraine)
  41. Katia Bianchini, Researcher at the Max Planck Institute (Germany)
  42. Katja Swider, University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  43. Manlio di Stefano, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Italy)
  44. Marek Linha, Adviser at Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers - NOAS (Norway)
  45. Maria Zalokosta, Legal Advisor at Future Worlds Center (Cyprus)
  46. Marlotte van Dael, Researcher at ASKV Refugee Support (Netherlands)
  47. Matthew Evans, Director of the AIRE Centre (United Kingdom)
  48. Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of Refugee Council (United Kingdom)
  49. Michelle Mila van Burik Bihari (Netherlands)
  50. Naim Osmani, Executive Director of the Civil Rights Program Kosovo - CRP/K (Kosovo)
  51. Nando Sigona, Senior Lecturer at University of Birmingham (United Kingdom)
  52. Neil Falzon, Director of aditus foundation (Malta)
  53. Neža Kogovšek Šalamon, Director of the Peace Institute (Slovenia)
  54. Oleg Palii, President of the Law Center of Advocates (Moldova)
  55. Olga Tseitlina, Lawyer at Memorial HR Centre (Russia)
  56. Ostap Tymchiy, Expert at Right to Protection in partnership with HIAS (Ukraine)
  57. Avv. Paolo Farci, Lawyer - Bar Association of Florence (Italy)
  58. Pascale Coissard, Advocacy Officer of the Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat - CCAR (Spain)
  59. Sarah Woodhouse, Co-director of the Liverpool Law Clinic (United Kingdom)
  60. Spyridon Koulocheris, Head of Legal Research at Greek Council for Refugees (Greece)
  61. Stefan Leonescu, Legal Counsellor at the Jesuit Refugee Service Romania (Romania)
  62. Stefanie Grant, Chair of the institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (Netherlands)
  63. Stephen Hale, Chief Executive of Refugee Action (United Kingdom)
  64. Svetlana Djackova, Researcher at the Latvian Centre for Human Rights (Latvia)
  65. Dr Tamas Molnar (Austria)
  66. Thomas McGee, Independent Researcher on Statelessness (Iraq)
  67. Valeria Ilareva, Executive Director of Foundation for Access to Rights - FAR (Bulgaria)
  68. Zoran Drangovski, President of the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association - MYLA (Macedonia)
  69. Zuzana Stevulova, Director of the Human Rights League (Slovakia)
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