Recent research reveals that the absence of a route by which stateless persons can regularise their status leaves these individuals at risk of a range of human rights abuses. Many stateless persons find themselves destitute or forced to sleep rough on the streets. Others are subjected to long term immigration detention despite there being no prospect of return. Often stateless persons must endure years separated from their families abroad. Few are in a position to break this cycle, and as a consequence are left in legal limbo for years.
With your support we can bring Europe’s legal ghosts out of the shadows and ensure that stateless persons are treated with the respect and dignity which has been lacking. The fact that there remain an estimated 600,000 stateless persons living in Europe today shows that action is long overdue. The time for action is now and this is one facet of addressing the problem.
The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) is a civil society alliance with 53 member organisations in over 30 countries committed to address statelessness in Europe. We believe that all human beings have a right to a nationality and that those who lack nationality altogether are entitled to adequate protection – including the right to regularise their status and enjoy their fundamental civil, economic, social and cultural rights owing under international human rights law.
Over the last two years, including thanks to action by civil society, there has been a welcome shift towards greater recognition of the need for more concerted action to tackle statelessness at a global, regional and national level. Since December 2011, 17 states have acceded to either or both the UN Statelessness Conventions. In October 2012, the European Union pledged that all those Member States yet to do so (Estonia, Cyprus, Malta and Poland) would accede to the 1954 Statelessness Convention.
This near universal ratification by European Union states ostensibly indicates the existence of a strong regional statelessness protection regime. But scratch a little deeper, and the disturbing reality is that only a handful of European states have in place functioning statelessness determination procedures in order to implement their obligations in practice. This calls into question any notion that Europe can claim to be setting an example to the rest of the world. Ratifying conventions is an essential first step but must be followed by the introduction of determination procedures which are critical to helping stateless persons.
ENS has launched a pan-European campaign to improve the protection of stateless persons in Europe. Timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Statelessness Convention, this campaign will bring together a broad spectrum of actors and to put a human face on the statelessness issue. The campaign will culminate in a concerted day of action against statelessness across Europe on 14 October 2014 when this petition will be handed to European leaders.