Interview with Tineke Strik, Member of the European Parliament


ENS was pleased to catch up with Tineke Strik MEP on the eve of the Europe Parliament elections to ask for her reflections on progress in addressing statelessness over the last five years, and what lies ahead, including with regard to implementation of the EU Migration & Asylum Pact.

Tineke Strik, Member of the European Parliament

You have been a longstanding champion of the need to fully protect the rights of stateless people – what motivates your interest in this issue and why is it so important to address it?

Stateless people are often the first victim of more restrictive asylum and migration legislation. Often the consequences for migrants without a nationality are not thought through, which also leads to gaps and blind spots for practitioners. This deepens the limbo situation that stateless people are in, leading to more insecurity, less rights and less feeling of belonging. This motivates me to keep a keen eye on the consequences for stateless people while discussing or negotiating legislation and policies.

After years of negotiations, the EU recently adopted its new Migration & Asylum Pact – why did the EU embark on this process and how do you assess the final package adopted?

I am not optimistic about the effects of the Pact on the rights and situation of asylum seekers generally, which could also negatively impact stateless individuals. During screening, stateless people may be confronted with an unfeasible burden of proof, which may lead to the application of the border procedure. This closed border procedure is particularly concerning and will most probably affect the rights and wellbeing of refugees and their children. We might face a reluctance of Member States to share the responsibility for asylum seekers, which may incentivise border countries with continuing pushbacks or refraining from offering sufficient accommodation and protection.

 As you know, ENS lobbied hard for and was pleased to see the inclusion of several amendments aimed at improving the identification and protection of stateless people in the final Migration & Asylum Pact instruments adopted. What are these provisions, and how can we collectively ensure that they are properly implemented on the ground?

It was indeed welcome to receive valuable technical input from ENS and others during negotiations given that statelessness was not addressed at all in the initial Pact proposal. While certainly not perfect or complete, the final provisions adopted provide an important platform from which to seek to improve the identification and protection of stateless persons in asylum systems across Europe. As shadow rapporteur for the Screening Regulation, I submitted and supported several amendments regarding statelessness. These include (i) the addition of statelessness (as opposed to simply the question of nationality) in the screening form; (ii) the addition of a definition of ‘stateless person’ in accordance with Article 1 of the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; and (iii) the inclusion of statelessness or a risk of statelessness in the vulnerability assessment. All three of these amendments made it into the final text, albeit the latter unfortunately without the inclusion of persons at risk of becoming stateless. I equally supported the amendments proposed by other groups regarding statelessness during the negotiations. I also welcome the inclusion of statelessness-related provisions in other Pact files, such as recital 24 on statelessness in the Asylum Procedure Regulation (APR) and corresponding recital 49 in the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation (though the wording could have been stronger in my view). The inclusion of the obligation for authorities to clearly register it when an individual claims not to have a nationality during the registration of the asylum application in article 27(2) of the APR is also an improvement in my view. All these provisions now need to be fully implemented on the ground over the coming years.

Statelessness is of course not only a migration phenomenon – can you tell us about other progress in getting statelessness higher up the EU agenda over the course of the current Parliament, and how did civil society organisations such as ENS support this?

I’m very glad that the EP resolution of 18 January 2024 on the EU fundamental rights reports of 2022 and 2023 calls on the Commission to develop a comprehensive strategy and action plan to address statelessness in the EU and to protect them from expulsion, and on Member States to properly identify, recognise and protect stateless people, addressing their specific vulnerabilities. The recognition in the revised Anti-Trafficking Directive that stateless persons are at greater risk of becoming victims of human trafficking and that it’s therefore important that EU Member States pay particular attention to them in the application of that Directive, is also very welcome. In the European Parliament’s legislative resolution of 24 April 2024 regarding the proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive (EU) 2015/637 on consular protection, we also broadened the scope to include consular protection of recognised refugees, stateless persons, and other persons who do not hold the nationality of any country, who reside in a Member State and are holders of a travel document issued by that Member State, under the same conditions as unrepresented citizens. The final agreement on the Proposal extending the Directive on the European Disability card and the European Parking Card to third country nationals legally residing in a Member State, also includes a new recital on stateless persons in order to clarify that in accordance with Article 67(2) TFEU, stateless persons should be treated as third-country nationals for the purpose of the Extended Directive. All this represents welcome increased focus on statelessness in EU instruments and policy debates, and follows important work done by ENS and other civil society actors to help get the issue higher up on the political agenda.

How do you see the EU’s role in upholding fundamental rights protections after the forthcoming elections? What keeps you positive and optimistic for the future?

We are already seeing an increasing tension between political parties that work to uphold human dignity and fundamental rights, and those that are chipping away at these foundations for the sake of keeping people in need of protection out with walls, fences, shady deals and violence. I fear this tension will only increase after the upcoming EU elections, for which the polls predict a sharp turn to the right. This shift will make the EU’s role in upholding fundamental rights ever more important. So far, the EU Commission is failing to enforce against the grave and systematic violations of the rights of people on the move. Instead, it finds itself in an increasingly problematic position; supporting violating EU Member States for the sake of border control and ‘migration management’, to the detriment of its legal duty to guard and uphold fundamental rights compliance. The Commission has always referred to the need for the Pact when confronted with criticism on this lack of enforcement. I really hope we will indeed see a shift in the new EU term towards proper enforcement. I aim to establish a dedicated monitoring group within the LIBE Committee, for regular updates from NGOs, Member States and the EU Commission on the Pact implementation, to ensure fundamental rights compliance, identify legal gaps to be resolved and to keep pressuring the Commission to uphold its commitment of enforce. Because without enforcement, there will be no compliance and without compliance, there will be no mutual trust, which is essential for the EU asylum system to work. What keeps me positive and optimistic for the future is the strength and resilience of our fundamental rights community. Every day, I see how NGOs, lawyers, journalists, aid workers, advocates and affected communities fight to uphold the rights of people in need of protection, even in the face of increasing attacks and criminalization. We are each other’s allies, and our collective efforts are powerful. I have seen first-hand how the advocacy of ENS, including of refugees and stateless persons themselves, is having a positive impact on EU policies, and I am convinced that, together, we can continue to change the tide.

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