The European Network on Statelessness (ENS), a civil society alliance with over 100 members in 39 countries, calls on the incoming Malta Presidency of the European Union (EU) to build on current momentum with regard to addressing statelessness in Europe.
In recent years there has been greater recognition of the need for more concerted action to combat statelessness at a global, regional and national level – including by EU institutions. In October 2012, the EU pledged that all those Member States yet to do so (Estonia, Cyprus, Malta and Poland) would accede to the 1954 Statelessness Convention – the international instrument setting out obligations owing to stateless persons on a State Party’s territory. On 4 December 2015, the Council of the EU’s first Conclusions on Statelessness were adopted. These emphasize the importance of exchange of good practices and information relating to statelessness among Member States, and task the European Migration Network (EMN) with establishing a dedicated platform to facilitate this. Two EMN regional roundtables have since been held, with a third scheduled in Brussels next month, and a Policy Inform recently published. The European Parliament has produced a dedicated study on statelessness, and will follow this with a Hearing in 2017.
Yet despite this progress and clear agenda for action, thus far only a handful of European states have put in place functioning statelessness determination procedures in order to implement their obligations in practice. The absence of a route by which stateless migrants can regularise their stay leaves them unable to enjoy their fundamental civil, economic, social and cultural rights owing under international human rights law. Many experience long term destitution and/or immigration detention, as documented by recent ENS research. Few are in a position to break this cycle, and as a consequence are left in legal limbo for years - posing policy implications for states as well as denying basic rights to those affected. Moreover, Europe continues to be a ‘producer’ of statelessness. Research published by ENS last year reveals that even among those states that have acceded to relevant international conventions, more than half are still failing to properly implement their obligations to ensure that stateless children acquire a nationality.
Hence there is now an urgent need, and opportunity, for the Maltese Presidency to assume a pivotal leadership role in working with the European Commission, EMN and other actors to translate recent momentum into concrete measures to better protect stateless persons, and to prevent any child having to grow up without a nationality in Europe.
When Malta assumes the Presidency of the EU on 1 January 2017, ENS encourages it to:
- Follow up on the December 2015 Council Conclusions by tabling statelessness at SCIFA and/or other meetings, and encourage exchange of good practices through the EMN platform.
- Encourage all Members States to introduce dedicated statelessness determination procedures.
- Urge Member States in their national practice to ensure that all children born in their territory regardless of their legal status or their parents’ identity documents are registered, and ensure that all children acquire nationality where they would otherwise be stateless.
- Make the accession to the two UN Statelessness Conventions and their implementation by all EU Member States a priority.