About the #LockedinLimbo campaign

Statelessness increases vulnerability to arbitrary detention. Locked in limbo stateless people are often deprived of their liberty simply because they don’t have a nationality. Across Europe a failure by states to put in place effective systems to identify stateless people leaves thousands exposed to repeated and prolonged detention.

#LockedInLimbo campaign was launched by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) in May 2017 at a regional conference in Budapest bringing together civil society, policy makers, and international agencies from right across Europe.

ENS is calling on European states to put in place procedures to identify people without a nationality so that they don’t end up locked up in limbo. Our Agenda for Change sets out how this can be done detailing what needs to change in five priority areas for reform.

In addition to our Agenda for Change we have published a Regional Toolkit for Practitioners (pdf) and a series of six country reports designed as part of a three year project to produce research, create advocacy tools and train lawyers to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention. You can visit the detention section of our main website for more information about the project.

Five priority areas for reform

Alternatives to detention

First and foremost, we need a fundamental shift away from the enforcement approach prevalent in Europe today that relies heavily on detention, towards one more focused dignity, respect and empowerment. States must recognise that people are more likely to cooperate with immigration systems if they can live in their communities, access their fundamental rights, and enjoy a basic and dignified standard of life. Detention is costly, harmful and ineffective, and community based alternatives have been proven to lead to more effective case resolution.

Identification of statelessness

Identifying statelessness is key if states are to ensure the protection of stateless people from arbitrary detention and respect for their human rights. Our research found that states are not routinely considering statelessness as part of decisions to remove or detain people. This failure is leading to people being subject to arbitrary detention and ending up in limbo. Most countries in the region do not have formal Statelessness Determination Procedures, which often leaves people without any route to protection, legal status or access to their rights.

Addressing vulnerability and protecting against discrimination

Routine detention or a one-size-fits-all approach is arbitrary. States have an obligation to identify and act on statelessness and other vulnerabilities, and to protect individual rights, including for example the rights of children, women and disabled people. To prevent discrimination and protect those in vulnerable circumstances, states must tailor their decision making to individual circumstances and put in place mechanisms to identify and address vulnerability.

Integration in the community

Stateless people are usually eventually released from detention because they cannot be removed. Where their detention has been arbitrary, they should be granted compensation. Our research found that people are often released into destitution and a further limbo without any legal status to enable them to reside lawfully, work or access healthcare and social security. This leads to damaging and futile cycles of release and re-detention. States must give stateless people access to their basic rights and facilitate their integration through a route to naturalisation.

Monitoring and implementation

Without accurate data about statelessness, states are failing to monitor and implement their legal obligations. People suffering in limbo are being silenced as their plight is often invisible to the authorities and civil society. To take effective action, states need to better understand the issues. This is why we need more accurate, disaggregated data on statelessness, independent oversight of places of detention and state regimes, and access to people in detention not only for international agencies and civil society, but for legal representatives, friends, family and community members .

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