Monday, 27 February 2012

Statelessness in the UK

The UN Refugee Agency, alongside Asylum Aid published a report in November 2011 named ‘Mapping Statelessness in the United Kingdom’, highlighting the struggles faced by the ‘stateless’ individuals in the UK. A stateless individual is defined by the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons as a ‘person who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law’. This report aimed to highlight the current problems faced by such ‘stateless’ individuals and make some recommendations as to how their position can be improved.

Despite the United Kingdom's efforts to protect stateless individuals with the ratification of the 1954 Convention, the report still emphasizes some disturbing realities that take place on a daily basis. One of the most fundamental problems faced by stateless individuals is that there is an absence of any formal procedure for which they can apply for their statelessness to be recognized. This has grave practical consequences; with no identity documents, the stateless individual is unable to leave the country. This lack of formal procedure, combined with no leave to remain within the UK, means that individuals are more at risk of having their human rights breached. This is due to the fact that without any formal status they are more likely to be left without residence or separated from their family. However, due to a lack of data surrounding the issue of statelessness, the UN Refugee Agency and Asylum Aid were unable to gain a realistic picture of the scope of such problems in the UK. Nonetheless, it is suggested that these issues already affect many.

Consequently, the report makes some important recommendations to the government and Home Office based on the problems discussed, including a proposal for the introduction of a formal procedure by which stateless individuals can be identified and calls for the reformation of current UK stateless persons law to ensure that it is compatible with human rights declarations. Whilst at present the government does not appear to have acted on these recommendations, it is hopeful that the report will act as the catalyst for such overdue change.

By Ruth Hartley

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