Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has asked governments to act in the best interest of stateless children.
“Citizenship is the ‘right to have rights’. Without citizenship, one lacks not only political rights, but often social and economic rights as well. On a symbolic level, citizenship implies being a full member of a national community, and even further, of humanity,” says Mr. Muižnieks, in his latest Human Rights Comment.
Hundreds of thousands of persons in Europe do not have citizenship of any state. Statelessness is not disappearing with time, but being transmitted over generations.
Governments should act more vigorously to break this cycle by targeting measures to end statelessness, especially among children, Mr. Muižnieks said.
He added that there should be no stateless children in Europe. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every Council of Europe member state, provides that all children have a right to a nationality. The Convention’s overarching principle is that “In all actions concerning children […] the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
It is clearly in the best interest of the child to have citizenship from birth, Mr. Muižnieks said.
While children are vulnerable, the risk of statelessness is greatest among the poorest and most excluded – minorities, the displaced, refugees, orphans, and the illiterate.
Statelessness increases the vulnerability of children to serious human rights violations, such as trafficking, labour and sexual exploitation, as well as illegal adoption. This means that stateless children often face multiple, mutually reinforcing forms of marginalization.