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A life-changing document: our work on statelessness

Categories: Publications,Statelessness

by Cynthia Orchard, Statelessness Policy and Casework Coordinator

picture of stateless persons travel document which looks like a red british passport picture of stateless persons travel document which looks like a red british passport‘What’s this strange, red, travel document?’ I hear you ask. No it’s not the new post-Brexit passport. It is extremely rare, and this particular one belongs to one of our clients. This is a travel document issued to some people who have no nationality. For those lucky enough to have it, it is a life-changing and precious document.

People with no nationality whatsoever, ‘stateless’ people, can’t get a passport because they are not recognised as citizens of any country. This means they cannot travel abroad. Without citizenship, in the UK most cannot work, access affordable healthcare or education, rent a home, open a bank account or do many of the things we take for granted. They are therefore at huge risk of homelessness, destitution, abuse and ill-health. Our CEO’s August 2018 blog article can tell you more about statelessness, and you can read about real people experiencing this right now in the UK.

Without this precious document, stateless people are in limbo. But many are not able to access such a document. We are working to change this.

Our work on statelessness

MRC has been dedicated to addressing statelessness in the UK since 2010.  Our innovative work to support stateless people and achieve change comprises three main aspects:

  • We provide free legal advice for applications to remain in the UK as stateless persons, in collaboration with corporate law firms that work with us pro bono. For the stateless person, this means they have a path towards being able to build a life here.
  • We pressure the government to take a fairer and more efficient approach to statelessness on a policy level so that statelessness, and the effects of it, is reduced.
  • We provide training and information and raise awareness about statelessness so that stateless people can get more support, sooner.

In July 2018, with the University of Liverpool Law Clinic, we co-hosted a conference on statelessness in the UK exploring ‘Challenges and Opportunities, Theory and Practice’. The conference brought together about a hundred people – stateless activists, scholars, students, legal practitioners, front-line NGO workers, policy advocates, philosophers, Parliamentarians, and others – who offered different perspectives on the issues around statelessness and how to address them.

Speakers included Sayed Alwadaei, a stateless activist from Bahrain who gave a compelling talk about how statelessness affects him and his family, and his work to address this and other human rights violations. You can read more about his story here. We also had a presentation about the new, ground-breaking Statelessness Index developed by the European Network on Statelessness and workshops and panels on strategic litigation, childhood statelessness, detention of stateless people, effective communication about statelessness, and many other excellent contributions. Participants made new professional contacts; raised awareness through social media (check out #statelessness2018); and were inspired and energised to continue and expand work to address the often tragic causes and consequences of statelessness.

A website to share information from the conference (parts of which were filmed) – is planned for launch in coming months. The first video from the conference – of Stuart McDonald, MP, discussing how to raise statelessness and other issues in Parliament — is available here.

Earlier this year, we launched a micro-website to assist stateless people in the UK (and those assisting them) to understand the laws, policies, and practices that may apply to them. As far as we know, this is the first micro-website of its kind, designed to enable stateless persons to understand their situation and get appropriate help.


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