Learning about stateless children

Hi everyone! I hope you are all safe and everything is going well! I am sure we will overcome these difficult days together very soon!

Today’s topic is new for me also, as I luckily got the chance to get acquainted with it through a webinar. The webinar took place on 3 April via Zoom, it was hard to focus due to distractions made by some hackers! However, luckily it was shortly after uploaded on Youtube in a much clearer version…and it is still available!

This blog post is inspired by this webinar. It was about statelessness and done by the European Network for Statelessness. During the webinar, I got an idea of the amount of suffering stateless children experience and how urgently this needs to stop.

This webinar was delivered by:

  • Khadija Badri, who’s an Advocacy and Engagement officer, European Network of statelessness;
  • Rabea Niggemeyer, Statelessness and Birth Registration Researcher, Germany.

Stateless children

Being born as a stateless child results in facing a lifetime of discrimination. This means that your status will affect your ability to learn, grow, receive medical care and even be vaccinated. Surely it is not their fault to be born stateless? I believe that countries shouldn’t add more pressure on them but instead help them.

As a child, being born stateless will have a psychological affect upon you. You might not be called ‘stateless’, but instead ‘invisible’, ‘alien’, ‘living in a shadow’ and even ‘worthless’. I believe that in this modern world, statelessness should come to an end by providing solutions, especially for children. For example:

  • Allowing the children to gain the nationality of the country in which they are born if they would otherwise be stateless;
  • Ensuring universal birth registration to prevent statelessness;
  • Reforming laws which prevent mothers from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers.


I will now explain briefly about what statelessness is, and mention its impact on a child’s life.

Who is a stateless person?

A person who’s “not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law” (1954 Convention).

Who is at risk of statelessness?

A person who is not stateless but might become so or whose statelessness might become apparent over time, for instance during returns procedures (e.g. victims of trafficking, minorities, nomadic populations, persons without birth certificates).

A stateless child is deprived from the most basic human rights that they should easily have access to. They are not allowed into schools, or see a doctor if they are sick. This leads us to the fact that having a nationality facilitates access to many fundamental human rights. Conversely, not having a nationality makes it challenging for children to access their rights. I should also add that stateless children are at more risk of immigration detention.

It is extremely important to protect them from several dangerous experiences, for example: trafficking, child labour, and early marriage. Hence, the right to a nationality goes hand in hand with protecting the rights of a child.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, providing child protection is more important now than ever. This is done by, for example, making sure that their migration/nationality status isn’t obstructing them from having healthcare access.

Across international and regional standards, States have an obligation to ensure that every child has the right to a nationality regardless of the migration status of the child or their parents. This leads us to…

States are obliged to ensure that every child has the right to acquire a nationality.

Article 7, Convention on the Rights of the Child

Which children in migration are affected by statelessness?

Undocumented children, children who were born en route. Also children who cannot inherit their parents’ nationality, unaccompanied or separated children, and those who were born in countries with large stateless populations.

What are the current gaps and challenges in addressing statelessness among children in migration in Europe?

As a start, the lack of legal safeguards and barriers to birth registration. Also, the lack of provision for children who were born en route, poor identification about what statelessness is as well as lack of child rights-based determination procedures. Lastly, the risk of immigration detention is heightened.

What are the key actions needed to protect children in migration from statelessness?

This can be done by: introducing, implementing and improving safeguards; improving the identification and recording of statelessness. Moreover, introducing an urgent child rights-based statelessness determination procedure and ensuring appropriate referral.

Conclusion

Writing a blog post about such a topic was very enjoyable and informative for me, especially since this topic interests me greatly.

Additionally, it is important for people to be aware and understand what is it like to be born stateless and how it hugely impacts a child’s life psychologically, educationally and health-wise. In my opinion, every child should have access to education and healthcare even if they are stateless. A child does not choose to be born stateless, therefore countries should not add more pressure on them by preventing them from having access to their simplest rights.

Thank you!

Rimaz


#KeepingUpWithTheInterns is part of our project Marginalised Persons as Human Rights Volunteers. If you want to follow Matthew and Rimaz as they navigate their way through Malta’s human rights landscape, subscribe to our News & Updates or follow them on our social media pages!

This project has been funded through the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector on behalf of Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sports and Voluntary Organisations within the Ministry for Education and Employment. This project/publication reflects the views only of the author, and the MEDE and the MCVS cannot be held responsible for the content or any use which may be made of the information contained therein.