Lack of birth certificates leaves Roma children in Europe at risk of statelessness and without healthcare or education
A life without birth certificates and a nationality has a profound impact on thousands of Roma living in Europe, including children. At a meeting in the European Parliament a cross-party group of parliamentarians will call on Member States and the European Commission to focus attention on the risk of leaving Roma stateless and to discuss next steps to address the issue in countries which are part of the enlargement process, as well as within the EU.
New research by UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the European Network on Statelessness and others sheds light on the discrimination faced by stateless minorities. It has revealed that many thousands in Europe lack birth certificates putting them at risk of statelessness, unable to prove their nationality
They are left struggling to obtain identification documents, access key services such as education, healthcare and later in their life find employment, own property, get married and register the birth of their children.
Soraya Post, Member of the European Parliament and the Co-chair of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup said:
“This is a problem many believe has been resolved, but living without nationality and rights is a harsh reality for thousands of Roma in the EU. Roma children born in Italy to parents who’ve fled there during the Balkan wars are still facing the scourge of statelessness, even though their families have been living there for decades. We, as members of the European Parliament need to make sure that this remains a priority on the EU agenda until all Roma can enjoy their rights as European citizens.”
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, Member of the European Parliament and the Co-chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights said:
“It is unacceptable that children in Europe are still born stateless and the Intergroup on Children’s Rights is fully committed – together with UNHCR and civil society – to end childhood statelessness. A child is first and foremost a child regardless of their legal status and we have the responsibility to protect them without double standards. We call on Member States to stop the legal limbo that is still affecting many Roma children across Europe in accordance with the existing International law.”
Chris Nash, director of the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), said:
“Our research in the Western Balkans revealed that complex civil registration procedures hinder access to crucial documents and are a leading cause of statelessness among Roma. We are calling for reform of these procedures and stamping out Roma statelessness to be a priority for the European Commission and the European Parliament during EU enlargement negotiations.”
Inge Sturkenboom, Protection officer at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said:
“More than 75% of the world’s known stateless populations belong to minority groups. In Europe, Roma are especially vulnerable to statelessness. They are trapped in a cycle where the parents’ lack of nationality and documentation obstructs the registration at birth of their children who have no means of proving their entitlement to citizenship. This leads to a next generation growing up in poverty, with difficult access to education, health care and other basic services.”