More background information on the issue and additional resources
Children of refugees should not be assumed to have their parents’ nationality(ies). Most children acquire a nationality from at least one of their parents by descent (known as ‘jus sanguinis’), but some do not. Many refugee children are registered as having the same nationality as their parents even though the child may not actually have that nationality. Further investigation is needed in many cases.
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.
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.