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Statelessness and the Global Compact for Migration

In recent months the Future Citizen Institute has reported intensively on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). In doing so, we touched upon the relation between development and migration policies, the role of data in implementing the compacts, and a four-part series on controversies surrounding the GCM, for example regarding detention, return and reintegration.

Statelessness, however, was conspicuously absent from this discussion. In fact, as noted in a policy brief by Tendayi Bloom on the GCM, statelessness “has long been largely absent from considerations relating to global migration governance. This also reflects a broader absence of statelessness from global policy frameworks and relative ignorance of statelessness among global actors”.

The GCM discusses statelessness under Objective 4 (“Ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation”). More specifically, Article 20(e) refers to the following commitments:

strengthen measures to reduce statelessness, including by registering migrants’ births, ensuring that women and men can equally confer their nationality on their children, and providing nationality to children born in another State’s territory, especially in situations where a child would otherwise be stateless, fully respecting the human right to a nationality and in accordance with national legislation.

Despite the mention of statelessness under Objective 4, Bloom is disappointed with the outcome, pointing out that the final text of the GCM retracts in almost every dimension from commitments in the earlier (“zero”) draft. Bloom therefore advises advocates using the GCM to reference the original intention behind several provisions as set out in this zero draft. For this purpose, a table in her policy brief gives a useful comparative overview of the differences between the zero and final drafts.

While statelessness is only mentioned under Objective 4, Bloom argues that the phenomenon is in fact important to consider explicitly across the migration governance agenda. For example,

stateless persons are often absent from official data (Objective 1), may be forced to move involuntarily (Objective 2), and yet also lack pathways for regular migration (Objective 5). Stateless persons are often particularly at risk of being trafficked (Objective 10) and being detained (Objective 13), often indefinitely. And at the same time, without citizenship of any country, they lack access to consular protection (Objective 14). Moreover, in broader terms, a lack of regular migration pathways (Objective 5), access to status determination (Objective 12) and consular protection (Objective 14) for example can also put those migrating at risk of statelessness.

Despite her disappointment about some of the outcomes, Bloom ends on a positive note by concluding that “statelessness is now on the global migration governance agenda”. This in itself is an important conclusion, given that the problem of statelessness was neglected for several decades. Indeed, it should be remembered that while UNHCR was already requested by the UN General Assembly to actively promote accession to the two [1954 and 1961] Statelessness Conventions in 1995, this task was only taken up seriously from 2006 onwards, when the Member States of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme adopted a Conclusion (the ExCom Conclusion) that urged UNHCR “to strengthen its efforts in this domain by pursuing targeted activities to support the identification, prevention and reduction of statelessness and to further the protection of stateless persons”.

Author: Dr. Olivier Vonk

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