On 9 November 2017, the situation in Switzerland was reviewed during the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council. In collaboration with the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, humanrights.ch and Terre des hommes Foundation, the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) had made a joint submission asking the Council to hold Switzerland to account on its human rights record on statelessness. In a targeted effort in the weeks prior to the session in November the partner organisations approached a number of delegations that have brought forward specific recommendations on statelessness in the past. The efforts focused on three main recommendations which on the basis of the joint written submission seemed to be the most urgent and strategic: the ratification of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the formalization of the Statelessness Determination Procedure and safeguards that would ensure children’s right to a nationality.
Those targeted efforts proved successful. At the review, three states issued recommendations on statelessness. Côte d’Ivoire recommended ratifying the 1961 Convention. Panama also called for the ratification of the 1961 Convention and moreover recommended to establish safeguards to guarantee birth registration to all children born in the country who would otherwise be stateless. Hungary issued a recommendation that the Statelessness Determination Procedure should be formalized and the procedure be fair, effective and accessible to all persons in Switzerland regardless of their legal status. The Hungarian delegation also asked to ensure that the definition of “stateless person” is fully consistent with the definition provided in the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. Switzerland only noted the first two recommendations but accepted the recommendations made by Hungary.
The recommendations made during the third cycle of Universal Periodic Review will prove important for future efforts to strengthen the rights of stateless persons. The introduction of a formalized, fair, effective and accessible Statelessness Determination Procedure as well as adaptation of the definition of “stateless person” in line with the 1954, as recommended by Hungary, would significantly improve the situation of stateless persons in Switzerland.
Now is the time to continue awareness raising and advocacy efforts at the national level to promote and to monitor related developments in Switzerland. With this aim in mind, humanrights.ch is applying to join ENS as its first Swiss NGO member.