How Real Is the Risk of a 'Stateless Generation' in Europe?: Reflections on How to Fulfil the Right to a Nationality for Children Born to Refugee and Migrant Parents in the European Union

8 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2016  

Inge Sturkenboom

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Laura van Waas

Tilburg Law School

Date Written: October 14, 2016

Abstract

During the second half of 2015 and in 2016, the ‘refugee crisis’ dominated European headlines, as unprecedented numbers of refugees and migrants arrived in the region. Politicians, humanitarian organisations and host communities struggled to deal with the impact of this wave of arrivals and meet the immediate needs of those seeking protection or a better life in Europe. As the year 2015 drew to a close, and with the crisis showing no sign of abating, another problem was flagged in the international press: the risk that a ‘stateless generation’ is now being born in exile. Not only will a child born to refugee parents miss out on knowing his/her country of ancestry, where it may currently be unsafe for him/her to grow up, in some circumstances he/she may also miss out on a nationality. At a time when the international community is working to reduce statelessness globally, the refugee and migrant crisis poses a distinct challenge to the realisation of every child’s right to acquire a nationality.

This article looks at whether we can indeed expect a stateless generation to be growing up in Europe. What exactly is the risk of statelessness among children born in exile to refugee or migrant parents? It focuses, in particular, on the situation in and responsibilities of (Member States of) the European Union. We explain the different circumstances in which children of refugees or migrants are exposed to statelessness before exploring the complex question of where responsibility lies to fulfil the right to acquire a nationality for such children. Finally, we discuss what law and policies exist, and what further measures can be taken by actors at the local, national and international level, to avoid the scenario of a generation of children growing up stateless in Europe.

Keywords: Statelessness, Nationality, Children, Child Rights, International Law, Citizenship, Refugees, Migrants, Europe, EU

Suggested Citation

Sturkenboom, Inge and van Waas, Laura, How Real Is the Risk of a 'Stateless Generation' in Europe?: Reflections on How to Fulfil the Right to a Nationality for Children Born to Refugee and Migrant Parents in the European Union (October 14, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2877368 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2877368

Inge Sturkenboom

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ( email )

Switzerland

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