THE IMMIGRANT COUNCIL of Ireland (ICI) is joining more than 50 groups from across Europe in demanding action to regularise and support an estimated 600,000 people forced to “live in the shadows of European societies”.
Stateless people do not have the right to work or access social services and do not have a PPS number or a passport. They also do not have the right to vote.
In Ireland campaigners want the government to introduce clear, transparent and accessible determination procedures to allow the swift identification of stateless persons followed by a clear pathway for them to regularise their position and to access citizenship. Hilkka Becker, Senior Solicitor with the Immigrant Council said an online petition is being launched in 30 countries for people to show their support.
“It is unacceptable that people are still being left in limbo six decades after an international commitment was given to respond to this problem,” Becker said.
“Being a citizen of a country guarantees us some of our most basic rights and entitlements – it is our access to social services, our right to work and travel, the right to a passport and the right to vote. When people find themselves with no citizenship they have no security, protections or certainty.”
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 has led to statelessness of hundreds of thousands of persons in the Baltic states and in Eastern Europe.
In the past week the Immigrant Council of Ireland secured a declaration of statelessness for one man who endured six-years without access to a nationality.
Natig Sadygov was left stranded in Ireland for six years without documentation or right to a passport after a bureaucratic dispute unexpectedly arose over whether he was a citizen of Lithuania or the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Becker explained what happened to the man:
In Natig’s situation, he had travelled to Ireland as a citizen of Lithuania but, almost three years after arriving in Ireland, was suddenly informed that his citizenship was being revoked in the mistaken belief that he was a citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan, a country which did not exist as an independent state when he was born in the old USSR in 1966 and when he left his hometown to move to the Lithuanian part of the USSR in the 80s.
Legal action seeking to reinstate his Lithuanian citizenship failed to resolve the situation and it was established that he was also not entitled to the citizenship of Azerbaijan. Since then Natig has been campaigning to have his rights as a stateless person recognised in Ireland.
“While many people may be familiar with statelessness through the movie ‘Terminal’, starring Tom Hanks, they may not be aware that for hundreds of thousands of individuals and families it is a harsh reality which they have to cope with every day,” Becker commented.
“We want 2014 to be the year that Ireland and other European Countries respond to this issue and guarantee basic rights for everyone.”