More detail on the issue and additional resources
For children born to refugees in transit or exile, it can be very difficult to meet the evidential requirements for birth registration. European countries have different rules about the evidence required to register a birth. Many States require evidence of the time and place of birth and at least one parent’s identity in order to register a child’s birth, but refugee parents may not have this evidence if their child was born in transit, or if they are stateless, undocumented or do not have key documents.
Problematic birth registration practices may exacerbate the risk of statelessness among children of refugees. Information about the nationality of parents is essential for establishing the child’s nationality or risk of statelessness, because most children acquire a nationality from one or both of their parents by descent. However, many children are registered as having the same nationality as their parents without an examination of whether the child actually has that nationality. Stringent evidential requirements for birth registration, punitive fines and complicated court procedures for late registration, or a legal duty on registry officials to report irregular migrants to immigration authorities, can all prevent parents from registering births. Such practices all heighten the risk of childhood statelessness in Europe.
International law protects children’s right to a nationality. The right of every child to a nationality and is clearly established in international law (for example, Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is binding for all European states). International law also requires that States enact legal safeguards to prevent statelessness, for example to give children who would otherwise be stateless the right to acquire the nationality of their country of birth. Birth registration is vital to establish legal identity and prevent childhood statelessness, and birth certificates are essential evidence that help confirm nationality.
Only around half of European countries have full safeguards to protect against childhood statelessness. In some countries, the law excludes many children because it requires the child or a parent to have lawful residence in the host state. In other countries, the law requires an application procedure and payment of a fee, which prevents many children from acquiring a nationality. Officials, parents, and children are often unaware that legal safeguards exist, and sometimes officials do not implement the safeguards because the child’s statelessness has not been identified.
Children who are stateless and/or lack proof of nationality may experience many hardships, including barriers to accessing education, welfare benefits, and healthcare. They may not be able to travel outside their country of residence, for example to visit grandparents and other relatives. When they reach adulthood, they may suffer further difficulties: being unable to work, access higher education, rent accommodation or buy property, or undertake many other essential activities, and they may be at heightened risk of exploitation.