- Project Title:
- Bringing Certainty to Uncertain Futures: Addressing Childhood Statelessness
- Issue Area:
- Human Rights & Cultural Understanding
Statelessness is a hidden problem with devastating consequences. An issue often pushed aside, but important nonetheless. A stateless person is in limbo, one who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law. This issue especially affects refugees, particularly children, and it is crucial that we raise awareness to protect their futures. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that a stateless child is born every ten minutes. These children will grow up to face overwhelming adversity, encountering barriers to education, healthcare, and employment. They risk being turned away from secondary school, denied scholarships, or charged higher educational fees. Stateless children face discrimination from an early age, labelled outsiders in their own country. Intolerance worsens with age, as people find it difficult to secure housing and legal employment. Greece is a major entry point for thousands of refugees – mostly Syrian, Afghani, and Iraqi – seeking asylum in Europe. Given recent EU sanctions, many countries are refusing to accept these refugees, leaving them stranded in Greece. Refugees are now likely to be staying in Greece long-term, making the country the ideal location to address the issue of statelessness. For refugees, lack of birth registration is a major problem. When births occur at home rather than in a hospital, children are often not properly registered. Registration indicates where a person was born and who their parents are – important information needed to establish nationality.
I propose a multilingual, multimedia campaign to spread awareness about the issue of statelessness and its effect on the next generation. A primary issue with statelessness is that those it affects most are unaware of the problem. Parents may not realize the difficulties their stateless children will face. Refugees must be provided with clear and easy to read brochures in a variety of languages – Arabic, Pashto, Dari, and Greek – informing them on what statelessness is and how it may affect their families. For those unable to read, information sessions must be provided, led by native speakers of the languages of the refugees. This information should include guidance for families on how to navigate the world as stateless persons. We must also create information to share with local communities on the plight of statelessness, and encourage social acceptance of refugee children. If we begin to combat the stigma and discrimination surrounding statelessness, we can create a brighter future for these children.
My grandmother was a stateless child herself. Her family fled the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and later the Communist takeover of China. They experienced the pain of leaving everything behind to come to a country where they faced uncertain futures as stateless persons. Statelessness doesn’t have to be a silent agent of ruin, and we must do all we can to combat it and protect the uncertain futures of the next generation.