In a joint letter sent to the Spanish Prime Minister yesterday, ENS and Fundación Cepaim launched a campaign calling on Spain to introduce critical reforms to improve the situation of stateless people in Spain and to facilitate their naturalisation. If adopted, the reforms would also set an inspiring example to other European countries.
The campaign includes a short video, and builds on a series of webinars we held with Fundación Cepaim during September and October to help build alliances and momentum to address these issues, both in Spain and across Europe.
Why is reform needed?
As highlighted in our Statelessness Index, Spain is one of the few States that has a centralised administrative statelessness determination procedure in place, which ultimately leads to a stateless status granting automatic permanent residence and authorisation to work in the country. These good practices, however, are not matched with adequate protection for those applying for stateless status, and there are critical gaps within the statelessness determination procedure.
During the statelessness determination procedure, stateless status applicants do not have the right to a temporary stay permit (unless they are minors, they applied within the one-month deadline or are lawfully staying in the territory); the right to work from six months after lodging their applications; the right to free legal aid throughout the procedure; the right to apply for the status at border crossing points; the right to contact UNHCR; and the right not to be expelled from the territory or detained for migration-related purposes.
This legal reality contrasts with that of asylum seekers and refugees: people who apply for asylum in Spain cannot be removed during the procedure, they are documented as asylum applicants, they have the possibility to acquire a work permit and, once granted protection, they can apply for Spanish nationality after a reduced residence period of five years.
Time for action – our call for a comprehensive international protection and statelessness legal framework
Spain is set to reform its asylum law, and it is time to include stateless people within the new legal framework in order to create a new law on international protection and statelessness that equates the rights of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection with the rights of applicants for stateless status and recognised stateless persons, in order to harmonize protection at the highest level.
In a joint letter to the Spanish Prime Minister (30 Sep 2020), we outline the steps Spain needs to take to better protect those without a nationality (read the Spanish statement; you can also read an unofficial English translation). If adopted, our proposed reforms would raise the standard of protection and reduce the waiting period required for stateless people to apply for Spanish nationality.
In addition to our joint campaign, we have organised a series of webinars with Fundación Cepaim to discuss these issues and find sustainable and joint solutions among institutions, support organisations, academics, and other key stakeholders, including people affected by statelessness.
By adopting the reforms we propose, Spain now has the opportunity to become an inspiring example to many other countries across Europe which are still not doing enough to identify and protect stateless people.