Detained and nowhere to go – New ENS report sheds light on the hidden misery of stateless persons in the UK


Today we are publishing new research into the detention of stateless people in Britain which warns that the failure of UK immigration authorities to deal with stateless individuals often results in prolonged and pointless detention.

The report “Protecting stateless persons from arbitrary detention in the UK” uncovers that individuals without nationality are often detained for months and even years, without any real prospect of being removed or their lack of nationality resolved.
The fear of being detained and left in indefinite detention while the authorities try to unsuccessfully remove them from the UK is something that all the individuals we interviewed said remains a constant anxiety. The UK is alone among EU countries in operating a detention regime without a defined time limit.
One research participant, Muhammed a stateless man from Western Sahara, spent a combined time of nearly four years in detention. His case was typical of those we interviewed. Despite this, stateless persons are seldom recognised as victims and are instead unfairly labelled as refusing to cooperate with the state.
While the UK has a procedure in place to identify stateless persons and ensure they don’t discriminate against them, this report shows that there are considerable deficiencies that require immediate attention. 

Read the full report

Coverage and launch event

The report received wide coverage online and was featured on Thomson Reuters, Daily Mail, Open Democracy, Migrants Rights Network and the Justice Gap among others. You can also read the ENS press release which includes a quote by UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Representative to the UK Gonzalo Vargas Llosa welcoming the report. 

To mark the launch of the report, ENS organised a lunchtime seminar, hosted at Garden Court Chambers on Thursday 10 November. This included an opening presentation on key findings from the report followed by a panel discussion and interactive discussion with over 60 participants. Speakers included:

  • Katia Bianchini (ENS researcher and report author)
  • Adrian Berry (Barrister at Garden Court)
  • Nick Hardwick (Professor of Criminal Justice at Royal Holloway, University of London) 
  • Gonzalo Vargas Llosa (UNHCR representative to the UK)
  • Chris Nash (European Network on Statelessness)
  • Pierre Makhlouf (Bail for Immigration Detainees)

The seminar helped facilitate a discussion in the UK on the intersection of statelessness and immigration detention, and was attended by those who come into contact with immigration detainees – including lawyers, academics, NGOs, detainee visitor groups and volunteers.

Our detention work across Europe

ENS is undertaking a three-year project to map and research the use and scope of detention, to create advocacy tools and to train lawyers and NGOs to protect stateless persons from arbitrary detention.

Project outputs to date include a series of country reports and a regional toolkit for practitioners - available on the ENS website. Later this year ENS will publish two additional country reports on the Ukraine and Bulgaria. In May 2017, ENS will organise a regional conference in Budapest at which it will launch a report calling for Europe–wide action on the issue.

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