Leading Experts Discuss ERT's Report"Unravelling Anomaly"

Geneva, 29 September 2010
On Wednesday 29 September, The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) and the International Commission of Jurists co-hosted an expert panel discussion on the human rights of stateless persons, informed by the findings of ERT’s ground-breaking report Unravelling Anomaly: Detention, Discrimination and the Protection Needs of Stateless Persons, which takes an innovative approach to the problem of statelessness combining first-hand field research from across the globe with in-depth legal analysis.

Statelessness is one of the most profound and serious human rights challenges in the world today. Stateless persons are those who have no nationality, or whose nationality is ineffective, meaning they are forced to walk a tight rope between legality and illegality, detention and pseudo-freedom. Faced with immense barriers to legally travel, reside, work, study or receive health care, millions of stateless persons are highly vulnerable to arbitrary detention, deportation, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and other human rights violations.

On Wednesday 29 September, ERT and the International Commission of Jurists co-hosted a side-event to the 15th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Statelessness, Discrimination and Human Rights, which was informed by the findings of Unravelling Anomaly. Speakers included Volker Türk, Director of International Protection at the UNHCR; Jan Borgen, Deputy Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists and Tamas Molnar, Legal Advisor at the Ministry of the Interior of Hungary, who played a key role in developing that country’s statelessness determination procedure.

Amal de Chickera, Head of Statelessness and Nationality Projects for ERT, spoke of the four fundamental challenges – legal, political, institutional and equality – which face the human rights community in addressing the statelessness problem. He said that the legal challenge arises from the difficulties in promoting a right to a nationality for all people, while also ensuring that lack of effective nationality does not result in other human rights abuses. This reflects the tension between balancing interests of national sovereignty with the universality of human rights. At national level, De Chickera said that the difficulties for stateless people in coming together and identifying visible spokespersons to raise their plight presented a major challenge in raising awareness of the discrimination and ill-treatment they face.

At an institutional level, challenges arise because though statelessness falls within the mandate of many international human rights and humanitarian bodies, to date many of these institutions have failed to see the impact of statelessness on their particular area of focus. He said that institutions needed to understand these impacts and improve cooperation in addressing problems affecting the stateless. Turning to equality, Mr de Chickera said that stateless people face inequalities and discrimination both within their countries of residence and as migrants, and that further, within the stateless community the de facto stateless (those with ineffective nationality) do not receive the same level of protection as de jure stateless persons, creating a further layer of inequality.
The full report “Unravelling Anomaly: Detention, Discrimination and the Protection Needs of Stateless Persons” can be found here and the Executive Summary can be found here.

A full record of the proceedings at the panel discussion will be published on The Equal Rights Trust website shortly.