Policy work

"The next generation needs to feel like they belong" - Fighting for children’s right to nationality

  • 20 October 2022
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"The next generation needs to feel like they belong" - Fighting for children’s right to nationality
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A core demand of our advocacy work is the right of children to be protected from statelessness. Fighting for the rights of children is crucial for breaking the cycle of statelessness. Here is more background on why our demand is essential for tackling statelessness and why it represents a key concern for intergenerational justice. 


“The next generation needs to feel like they belong,” one of the participants said at our Statefree Community Lab a few months ago. We were discussing our political demands and asked which demand they found most important. The answer was an unexpected consensus: we need to focus on the rights of the next generation, to make sure they will not experience the same barriers and forms of exclusion that stateless people currently face. The consensus came as a surprise because so far the advice of politicians and experts had been to prioritise the right of stateless people to have their statelessness recognised. The recognition of one’s statelessness is a crucial stepping stone to access the rights established under the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. However, as the Community Lab participants rightly pointed out, it is not enough to solve current issues of statelessness. We also need to prevent statelessness in the first place. 


In Germany, 94.945 people are registered with a so-called “undetermined nationality”, 27.940 are officially recognised as stateless. In total, 28.090 of these are minors who were born in Germany. These children are stateless or at risk of statelessness, since there is no nationality they can make effective use of. The right to a nationality is foundational to children’s well-being, as it is a prerequisite for many citizenship rights. It also plays into children’s sense of belonging and identity, and can be a traumatising experience as children get older and have to face a volatile bureaucratic system. 

Childhood statelessness can most effectively be prevented through a jus solis approach to nationality law, whereby all children born in a country directly acquire its nationality. However, German nationality law - even though it includes some aspects of jus solis - relies heavily on a jus sanguinis approach, whereby children acquire German nationality through their parents. As a result, children born to undocumented or stateless parents, and children who cannot inherit a nationality from their parents due to gender discriminatory nationality laws are therefore at higher risk of statelessness. As the high numbers of stateless children born in Germany shows, statelessness is not just a problem in far-away countries, but is also created within German territory as a result of how restrictive German nationality law is.

Special safeguards have to be put in place to make sure these children are protected from statelessness. Best practices are already in place in other EU countries such as Spain. Spanish nationality is granted at birth to children born in Spain to foreign parents “if both parents lack a nationality or if the legislation of both of their countries of origin does not attribute a nationality to the child”. Such legislation shows that children can effectively be protected from statelessness as long as the political will and effort is there. That is why we demand that Germany vows to prevent the statelessness of children and realises article 2 of the Convention on Statelessness from 1963 in connection with article 7 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Germany thereby grants over 28.000 children access to German citizenship and therefore membership as well as participation in the society in which they grow up. The right to a nationality is foundational to children’s well-being and a key concern for intergenerational justice.

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