Inaccurate recording of nationality status on arrival can affect how people are routed through status determination procedures, and may lead to people spending lengthy periods of time in reception centres if there are delays. Low levels of awareness among service providers about nationality problems mean there is a lack of tailored support, information and services for asylum seekers affected by statelessness.
“Reception” refers to the different services and provisions offered to people seeking asylum while their international protection status is being determined. It can encompass a wide range of different services in different countries. Under EU law, minimum standards for their provision are set out in the recast Reception Conditions Directive. Under the Directive, ‘material reception conditions’ are defined as including, ‘housing, food and clothing provided in kind, or as financial allowances or in vouchers, or a combination of the three, and a daily expenses allowance’.
Providers of asylum reception services generally have a low level of awareness of statelessness and nationality problem, and some may believe they do not come across stateless person in the course of their work or that it is not relevant. But statelessness and nationality problems occur frequently among asylum-seeking populations in Europe, and Stateless Refugee can find themselves spending prolonged periods of time in reception centres due to delays in the status determination process or uncertainty about their nationality status. Stateless asylum seekers (and those at risk of statelessness) may require assistance and expertise to guarantee their rights, for example, access to targeted information on their specific rights, specialist legal advisors with expertise on statelessness and nationality rights, or specific support to overcome barriers to procedures such as birth registration, which is vital for the prevention of childhood statelessness.
‘NGOs and services working for asylum-seekers don’t have any programmes, for example, going to the camps or the border to speak about statelessness. If a person comes to their office accidently and says they’re stateless, they react, but there is no raising awareness about this issue. You need to know your rights as a stateless person. If you know your rights and have a bad reaction from the authorities, you can go and ask for help, but if you don’t know…’
(Representative of a refugee-led organisation interviewed in Greece in June 2018)
What more can be done?
- Actors delivering services and providing reception support to asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their international protection status should have a basic understanding of statelessness and nationality problems, including information on preventing statelessness, and where to signpost people for expert advice.
- Tailored programmes and information should be developed for refugees affected by statelessness and nationality problems to support them to access and advocate for their rights.
The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) is a civil society alliance of over 140 non-governmental organisations, academics and individual experts in 40 countries, committed to addressing statelessness in Europe. ENS believes that everyone has the right to a nationality and that those who lack nationality altogether – stateless persons – are entitled to full protection of their human rights.
The Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) is the first and the only human rights NGO dedicated to working on statelessness at the global level. ISI’s mission is to promote inclusive societies by realising and protecting the right to a nationality. ISI is working to address discrimination and promote inclusive citizenship, realise every child’s right to a nationality, tackle statelessness as a cause and consequence of displacement, make the stateless visible to development programming and counter arbitrary deprivation of nationality, particularly in security contexts.