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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

The arbitrary detention of stateless people is cruel and outdated, says Green MEP

4 May 2017

Some 600,000 people in Europe today are ‘stateless’, meaning they do not have a nationality. As a result, they often have difficulties accessing basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. Stateless people are also at risk of being placed into immigration detention, sometimes unlawfully and long-term.

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London and the Green Party’s migration spokesperson, is set to deliver a keynote to a major conference on this issue in Budapest, Hungary tomorrow. The event is organised by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) [1]. She says:

“Citizenship is something that most people take for granted, but some 10 million individuals worldwide are not recognised as a citizen of any state. It is a legal anomaly which results in many children not being able to go to school, pregnant women not having access to healthcare, and parents being unable to provide for their families.

In 2015, almost 20,000 of the 1.3 million people who applied for asylum in the EU were recorded as being stateless and a further 22,000 were of ‘unknown citizenship’. In short, more than 3% of asylum applicants in the EU face a nationality problem. Yet despite most countries in Europe frequently encountering stateless people, it’s an issue that few understand – including many of the lawmakers who should be responsible for their safety and protection.

On Friday, I will deliver a keynote to a major conference in Budapest organised by the European Network of Statelessness (ENS). The conference theme is one with which we are all becoming too familiar: immigration detention. Many EU countries, including Hungary, have ramped up their use of detention in recent years. This can be particularly detrimental for stateless people, who are trapped in limbo between rejection by Europe and the lack of any other country that recognises them as a national. This process is cruel and outdated, leaving vulnerable people in detention for lengthy periods of time [2].

A new report by ENS calls for firm action to change this [3]. It recommends that states put procedures in place to identify stateless people, so that steps can be taken to protect them. It outlines alternatives to detention, and demands access to basic rights for those awaiting determination of their status.

A growing number of my colleagues are becoming aware of these pressing issues. We will seek to address them in June, when a joint hearing of the Civil Liberties Committee and the Petitions Committee will be dedicated to the question of statelessness.”



[3] The UK does have a statelessness determination procedure, but challenges remain with regard to its content and implementation.


Read my blog post “Europe’s stateless locked in limbo” for EURACTIV here.