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European Network on Statelessness calls for change in the detention of stateless persons

Date of Publication: 
8 May 2017

Report warns stateless people are being detained for long periods despite no prospect of return

European Network on Statelessness calls for change in the detention of stateless persons

08 May 2017

The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) last week released a new report, Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention: An Agenda for Change, at a major regional conference in Budapest.

The 24-page report can be read here.

The report draws on research from six European countries, including the UK, and focuses on the systems and practices which leads to stateless men, women, and children being subjected to immigration detention in Europe, despite there being no reasonable prospect of return.

In the foreword to the report, Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, says that stateless persons in Europe are often left in a legal limbo and excluded from access to basic services, including health care services, leaving them destitute and often in poor health.

Muižnieks adds that immigration detention has severe and long-lasting effects on the mental health of stateless persons detained.

The European Network on Statelessness says it is imperative that states put in place effective procedures to identify and recognise statelessness, assess and respond to vulnerabilities at all stages of immigration proceedings, urgently implement community based alternatives to detention, and grant stateless people and those who cannot be removed a legal status and basic rights, including equal access to social security, employment, education, and healthcare.

The European Network on Statelessness recommends that states should:

• Implement a range of alternatives to detention in line with international standards and good practice, improving guidance to ensure that statelessness is considered as a relevant factor in all decisions to detain, and that decisions adhere to international standards on the prohibition of arbitrary detention.

• Develop Statelessness Determination Procedures that meet international standards and good practice, are fully accessible to all those subject to their jurisdiction (including in detention), and which enable states to identify and grant protection to those recognised as stateless.

• Put in place robust mechanisms to protect individuals' rights, respond to vulnerabilities, and exercise the duty to not discriminate, including through prohibiting the detention of children and combatting gender and disability related discrimination.

• Facilitate integration in the community through providing protection from re-detention, access to basic rights and freedoms for those awaiting determination of their status, and regularisation and a facilitated route to naturalisation for those recognised as stateless.

• Improve recording and reporting on statelessness, building accountability into the operation of immigration detention systems, publishing disaggregated statistics, and facilitating access for independent monitoring bodies, lawyers and community members.

The report also recommends that people going through a statelessness determination procedure should have a right of appeal and review, access to legal aid and advice, and information about their rights in a language they understand.