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The Netherlands Violated Child’s Right To Acquire A Nationality, UN Committee Finds

In a ground-breaking decision, the Human Rights Committee has found that the Netherlands violated a child’s rights by registering “nationality unknown” in his civil records as this left him unable under Dutch law to be registered as stateless and therefore be given international protection as a stateless child.

This is the Committee’s first decision on the right of a child to acquire a nationality. It relates to a petition by a child named Denny, who was born in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands in 2010 to a 21 year-old mother from China.

Denny’s mother was trafficked to the Netherlands in 2004 when she was 15 and forced into prostitution. She eventually managed to escape in 2008, and reported what had happened to her to the Dutch police. However, the police closed the investigation as they could not identify her traffickers. Her residency status is currently classified as an “illegal alien”.

As Denny’s mother was herself abandoned by her parents and her birth was not recorded in the civil registry in China she was unable to obtain Chinese citizenship and wasn’t able to provide proof of Denny’s nationality. Denny was therefore registered in the Dutch Municipal Personal Records Database with the annotation “unknown nationality”.

To complicate matters, Denny’s mother was also unable to provide conclusive proof that her son was without a nationality as required by Dutch law to change his status from “unknown” to “stateless” and to apply for international protection for stateless children.

With no hope of getting further support from the Dutch authorities, Denny and his mother filed their petition to the Committee in 2016. The mother and son now live in a centre for failed asylum seekers with young children, with no contact with Dutch society and under a permanent threat of deportation.

“States have the responsibility to ensure that stateless children under their jurisdiction who have no possibility to acquire any other nationality are not left without legal protection,” said committee member Shuichi Furuya. “The right to nationality ensures concrete protection for individuals, in particular children.”

According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, as of September 2016, 13,169 children under 10 years old were registered with “unknown nationality”, many of whom had been born in the Netherlands.

The Committee requested the Netherlands to review its decisions on Denny’s application to be registered as stateless in the civil registry, and on his application to be recognized as a Dutch citizen. It also urged the Netherlands to review its legislation to ensure that a procedure for determining statelessness status is established, as well as reviewing its legislation on eligibility to apply for citizenship.

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