Ending childhood statelessness in Europe
UNHCR and UNICEF are calling for urgent action to ensure no child is born, or remains, stateless in Europe
‘I want them to have what I did not have. I don’t want them to live my life […] I am nobody. If I disappeared from the face of the Earth, nobody would have known.’
Ionela, Romania, mother of stateless Roma children
Stateless children are not recognized as nationals by any State’s domestic law. Children who are stateless feel the impact in their daily lives in profound ways. Discrimination based on statelessness, including limited access to critical services such as education and health care, can expose children to protection risks including violence, abuse, trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The fact that there are many children who are stateless or at risk of becoming stateless in Europe is therefore a serious concern. While not a new phenomenon, the numbers of children concerned have been rising due the high arrivals of refugees and migrants in Europe in 2015/2016.
Three groups of children are particularly affected:
- Children who are born stateless in Europe. These include those who cannot inherit their parents’ nationality due to gender discrimination and gaps in nationality laws, and those who are stateless because their parents are.
- Children born in Europe whose births are not registered, including children in vulnerable minority populations like the Roma.
- Children from countries with known stateless populations who come to Europe as refugees and asylum-seekers.
This is a call to urgent action by States and regional organisations to bring an end to childhood statelessness. The issue is not insurmountable, and can be addressed by a series of low-cost, effective and sustainable solutions.