A set of recommendations advocating the rights of stateless persons was presented by a World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation at the First Global Forum on Statelessness organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Tilburg University in The Hague, Netherlands.
The forum, held from 12 to 14 September, brought into focus the plight of an estimated 10 million people who live without legal identities and are not recognized as citizens by any state.
The document presented at the forum was an outcome of a consultation on statelessness held in Den Dolder, in preparation of the Global Forum and sponsored by the WCC and Kerk in Actie (Church in Action).
The document was presented in a plenary session and highlighted issues like childhood statelessness, gender discrimination in nationality laws and responses to statelessness.
Seta Margossian-Hadeshian, head of the refugee and migration department of the Middle East Council of Churches, presented the Den Dolder recommendation at the plenary. She explained to the participants of the Global Forum that “raising the voice of the invisible is part of the mission of the churches. It is part of the tradition of churches to be a sanctuary for those who are overlooked, forgotten.”
“Churches have a long tradition in caring for those in need. It was therefore meaningful to bring the voice of churches during this forum,” noted Semegnish Asfaw Grosjean, WCC programme executive for international affairs.
The plenary provided an opportunity to listen to the stories of stateless people struggling to get identification documents over several years. During a session moderated by Barbara Hendricks, UNHCR’s goodwill ambassador, former stateless people also spoke about hurdles they went through during the process of obtaining citizenships.
At the forum, members of the delegation meet with human rights actors from different regions and diverse areas of expertise. With participants at the forum, the delegates shared outcomes of the WCC consultation on statelessness that had been held in Den Dolder.
Churches advocate for the rights of stateless people (WCC news release of 15 September 2014)