Last month we and our members were out in force at an important international statelessness conference organised by the Council of Europe and the UN Refugee Agency.
Following our concerted engagement with the Council of Europe’s European Committee on Legal Co-Operation in the months and years leading up to the conference, it was welcome to take part in an event designed to garner much-needed momentum to strengthen Europe’s efforts to end statelessness and guarantee the provision of fundamental rights to stateless people.
At the event ENS Director Chris Nash spoke alongside ENS Trustee Christiana Bukalo on the high-level panel, taking the opportunity to call on European governments to use the conference as a springboard to make necessary law and policy reforms to meet their international obligations towards stateless people.
The urgency of this was brought home by other speakers, including Christiana and ENS individual member & activist Lynn Al-Khatib, who made an impactful contribution, shedding light on what it means to live without a nationality as well as sharing their perspectives on what needs to change.
At the conference it was acknowledged that while there has been significant progress in recent years, much more needs to be done to end statelessness and protect stateless people. This recognition and promise of action could hardly be more timely given the sobering reality that currently far too few countries are fulfilling their international obligations towards those living without a nationality who are as a consequence often left stranded on the margins of society without access to even their most basic human rights.
Our key recommendations
Ahead of the event we prepared a briefing Statelessness determination and protection in Europe to help inform discussions in Strasbourg and to shape follow-up actions. Our briefing calls on all Council of Europe States to:
- Introduce a fair and accessible statelessness determination procedure in line with norms and good practice.
- Ensure that the procedure leads to a dedicated protection status for people recognised as stateless.
- Provide specialised training on statelessness and nationality rights and ensure cooperation between relevant public authorities.
- Ensure that stateless migrants and refugees have an accessible route to naturalisation to resolve their statelessness.
During the conference we also highlighted the problem of childhood statelessness, and made various recommendations on how to prevent this and ensure that every child growing up in Europe is able to enjoy their right to a nationality. These include the urgent need to reform birth registration processes as well as to ensure that nationality laws include full safeguards against childhood statelessness.
The Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Cooperation plenary meeting on 18/19 November will provide an opportunity for Member States to agree concrete follow-up actions necessary to implement the conference’s key finding and recommendations.
Government representatives attending this meeting will need to be bold in setting themselves ambitious objectives - progress on which should be periodically reviewed and evaluated, including at future intergovernmental forums like the successful conference in Strasbourg last month.
It is also vital that the Council of Europe continues to play a pivotal leadership role in supporting, coordinating and driving forward these efforts in order to achieve the ultimate goal of eradicating statelessness in Europe. We are confident that real progress can be made with the necessary political leadership and a genuine commitment to translate words into action.
For our part, we at ENS stand ready to continue to constructively support this process.