The Netherlands fails to give stateless people the protection they are entitled to. That is the conclusion of a report by the United Nations’ refugee organisation UNHCR on the problems of stateless people. As the Netherlands often refuses to recognise when people are stateless, they are not entitled to basic necessities like health care or shelter.
Stateless people are those without a valid passport or document stating their nationality. They are not recognised as a citizen by any country, so they have nowhere to go. Stateless people have no access to health care, cannot turn to an embassy for help and are very much on their own.
There are two international treaties, both of which have been signed by The Hague, which help stateless people. A recognised stateless person has the right to a residence permit and can apply for the Dutch nationality after five years. But the UNHCR says this doesn’t always happen, take the case of Ahmed Hassan for instance.
Mr Hassan belongs to the Bajuni tribe from Somalia. He fled the civil war in 2007 and came to the Netherlands. His request of asylum was rejected, because he was unable to prove that he is Somalian. He went to both the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies, but neither regarded him as one of their citizens.
In 2010, Hassan was put on a plane to Somalia, but he was not allowed into the country because he did not speak the official language, only his tribal tongue. He is now back in the Netherlands and it is not clear what will happen to him. Hassan has spent most of his time in the Netherlands in asylum and detention centres.
An estimated 12 million people are stateless throughout the world. Statistics indicate that on 1 January 2010, there were just over 2000 people without a nationality in the Netherlands. These stateless people are supposed to be given a special status, but the UNHCR accuses the Netherlands of not having procedures to determine whether or not people are stateless. As a result, many people are left without any help. Their asylum requests are rejected because they are not recognised as asylum seekers. And they are either locked up in detention centres or they are condemned to living in illegality.
René Bruin of the Dutch branch of the UNHCR: “A special procedure is needed. You have to know when to define someone as stateless. Then they have special rights. Somali women for instance are unable to pass their nationality on to their children. Only fathers can do so, but they are often absent.”
Mr Bruin thinks that the number of stateless people in the Netherlands should be established more accurately. There may even be more than the 2000 currently indicated in statistics.
The UN asks for special attention to be paid to children born without a nationality. They should be given Dutch nationality. René Bruin: “That is stated in the treaties signed by the Netherlands. But The Hague sees it differently, unfortunately. Being stateless leads to problems later in life. Studying after you reach 18, for instance, is impossible.”
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