The need to eradicate statelessness of children
- Parliamentary Assembly
adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of
the Assembly, on 4 March 2016 (see Doc. 13985, report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and
Displaced Persons, rapporteur: Mr Manlio Di Stefano; and Doc. 13990, opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human
Rights, rapporteur: Mr Boriss Cilevičs).
The Parliamentary Assembly recalls
its work on nationality matters, and in particular its Resolution 1989 (2014)
access to nationality and the effective implementation of the European
Convention on Nationality, Recommendation
on nationality of children of stateless persons
and Recommendation 1081
on problems of nationality in mixed marriages.
It also underlines that the right to a nationality is enshrined
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
2 The Assembly refers to the Council of Europe’s acquis related to avoiding statelessness,
in particular the 1997 European Convention on Nationality (ETS No.
166), the 2006 Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in relation
to State Succession (CETS No. 200) and Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)13
on the nationality of children. It also recalls that Article 8 of
the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5) (right to respect
for private and family life) has been interpreted to include respect for
a nationality in the context of the denial of citizenship or uncertainty
of recognition of citizenship.
3 The Assembly recalls the relevant United Nations instruments,
namely the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1954
Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961
Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness which has been ratified
by 29 Council of Europe member States.
4 Changes in national borders and displacement of populations
following international crises and conflicts are major causes of
statelessness. The highest levels of statelessness in Europe’s recent
history arose as a consequence of the Second World War, then in
the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
The current migration crisis, which has seen hundreds of thousands
of Syrian and other refugees flee their countries in the hope of
a more secure life in Europe, brings a new statelessness challenge
which, if not addressed comprehensively, will see a further increase
in Europe’s stateless population.
5 There are more than 10 million stateless people in the world
today and every year up to 70 000 children are born without a nationality.
There are over 600 000 stateless people in Europe alone. Some migrants
and asylum seekers in Europe are already stateless on arrival, in
which case the situation of their children born in exile needs to
be provided for all the more urgently. However, the majority of
Europe’s stateless were born and live in Europe; many of them would
not be stateless today if all European countries had comprehensive safeguards
against childhood statelessness as required by international law.
6 The failure to ensure that every child enjoys the right to
a nationality has serious consequences for children, their families
and society as a whole. Statelessness brings problems of discrimination
and access to housing, education, health care and employment. It
exacerbates the problems faced by people who are already likely
to be socially vulnerable. Addressing the question of statelessness
at the earliest age should prevent the persistence of such problems
and situations of discrimination into adulthood. Moreover, children
who have the right to become a citizen can truly belong in and contribute
7 The extensive international legal and regulatory framework
related to statelessness and every child’s right to a nationality
provides a comprehensive safeguard against childhood statelessness.
However, despite this solid international legal framework, the national
legislation of several European States contains provisions which
raise serious concern and may cause or prolong situations of statelessness.
8 The relevant legislation in Cyprus, Norway, Romania and Switzerland
contains insufficient or no safeguards against childhood statelessness,
in breach of regional and international obligations.
9 Azerbaijan, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia,
Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”,
Poland and Slovenia have conditional safeguards which do not provide
full protection against the statelessness of children, as they only
function if a child’s parents are stateless or of unknown citizenship
and do not function in circumstances in which parents who have a
nationality cannot pass on their nationality to their children.
10 In some Council of Europe member States, parents cannot pass
on their nationality to their children and in others the safeguard
is dependent on residence requirements which do not comply with
11 In the light of the above, the Assembly urges all Council
of Europe member States to take measures to resolve statelessness
through law and policy reform and by the effective implementation
of existing mechanisms.
To this end, the Assembly asks member States to take the following
steps to eradicate childhood statelessness:
with respect to the implementation of international conventions
on statelessness, the Assembly:
12.1.1 calls on Andorra,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Ireland, Liechtenstein,
Lithuania, Monaco, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland,
Turkey and the United Kingdom to sign and ratify the Council of
Europe Convention on Nationality, and calls on Croatia, France,
Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland and the Russian
Federation to ratify it;
12.1.2 calls on those States that have not yet done so to sign
and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of
Statelessness in relation to State Succession;
12.1.3 urges those States that have not yet done so to sign and
ratify the United Nations 1954 Convention relating to the Status
of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of
with respect to national legislation, it calls on them
12.2.1 where appropriate, take measures to resolve statelessness
through law and policy reform accompanied by implementing provisions
and supervisory mechanisms;
12.2.2 review, with a view to amending if appropriate, law and
policy frameworks to bring national law into compliance with the
above-mentioned international instruments and standards and, in
particular, to ensure that national legislation provides for granting
nationality to every child born on their territory who would otherwise
12.2.3 introduce or upgrade existing statelessness determination
procedures in accordance with the guidelines of the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in order
to ensure that all stateless persons in their territories can be
identified, protected and ultimately acquire nationality through
12.2.4 ensure that the birth of every child born in their territory
is registered immediately. In particular, States are urged to ensure
that children born into vulnerable communities are registered at
with respect to national policies and practice, it invites
12.3.1 take measures to provide comprehensive protection
to ensure that refugee, asylum-seeker and migrant children and the
children of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants born on their
territories are protected from statelessness, taking into account
the best interests of the child and the need to prevent exclusion
12.3.2 participate in and support the United Nations Global Action
Plan to End Statelessness: 2014-2024 by, inter
alia, drafting and implementing national action plans
in collaboration with the UNHCR and by financially supporting the
Global Action Plan;
12.3.3 work together to promote the prevention and resolution
of statelessness, for instance through the use of the United Nations
Universal Periodic Review system, by which States may make recommendations
to other member States to address situations of statelessness.