A new initiative calling for improved rights and better support for ‘stateless’ people has been backed by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Convener/President of the Muslim Council of Scotland
Right Rev Dr Derek Browning and Dr Muhammad Adrees have joined 110 religious and faith leaders in signing a statement which urges the UK Government to do more to welcome those who no longer have a country to call their home.
The move comes during Interfaith Week (12-19 November) which seeks to build on the good relationships and partnerships between people of very diverse faiths and beliefs.
All have a shared commitment to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity.
The statement is calling for action on part of the UK Government to review its policies towards stateless people as many end up in prolonged and pointless detention while the Home Office tries to remove them from the UK.
‘Stateless’ people without legal status cannot leave the UK because no country will accept them. But without status, they don’t have permission to work in the UK and remain vulnerable to destitution, exploitation and detention.
Worldwide there are around 10 million ‘stateless’ people.
Signatories are calling for alternatives to detention and better support for access to rights and advice and help with integration.
The move is part of the #LockedInLimbo campaign which is led by the European Network on Statelessness and seeks to end the detention of people who end up locked in limbo simply because they have no country that they can return to.
Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said:
“I am pleased to support this statement as a sign of my support for global efforts to contribute to ending statelessness.
“Churches have a vital and significant role in offering a message of hope and peace to the world. It is good to see so many people wanting to engage with the issues and take action.
“The role of the World Council of Churches in advocating for the rights of stateless people has been particularly important in helping to focus attention on this issue.”
David Bradwell, Co-ordinator of Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees added:
“When it comes to matters of human dignity and human rights, there should be no acceptance of a situation which leaves people in unfair and unequal situations.
“This is so obviously a question of morality and ethics, and how human societies interact with one another, that it is important that faith and religious leaders, along with all people of good will, speak up and make the case for policy-makers to prioritise the welfare of people who face marginalisation and exclusion.
“The multi-faith collaboration on this statement is a remarkable demonstration that there is a strong shared commitment to the common good.”
Other signatories include Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Bharti Tailor, Vice-President of Religions for Peace UK, the Rev Lorraine Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference and Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Chair of the Liberal Judaism Rabbinic Conference.
Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim representatives have supported the statement, a full list of which can be found here.
The statement is now open for other faith or religious leaders who wish to add their support. You can do so here.
People designated as stateless, according to the 1954 Statelessness Convention, are “not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”.
Citizenship has often been described as the ‘right to have rights’.
Statelessness, in turn, is a corrosive condition that impacts almost every aspect of daily life.
The use of immigration detention and the criminalisation of irregular migration is increasing across many parts of Europe.
Earlier this month the United Nations High Commission for Refugees launched a new report This is Our Home – stateless minorities and their search for citizenship.
#Locked In Limbo UK faith leaders’ statement
An estimated 10 million people worldwide are stateless, which means that according to the 1954 Statelessness Convention they are “not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. Citizenship has often been described as the ‘right to have rights’. Statelessness, in turn, is a corrosive condition that impacts almost every aspect of daily life.
The use of immigration detention and the criminalisation of irregular migration is increasing across many parts of Europe. Stateless people are particularly vulnerable to arbitrary detention , including here in the UK. Some face indefinite detention because there is no country to which they can be returned but equally no prospect of regularisation in the country hosting them.
All our faiths compel us to affirm the dignity of all human beings and to offer help to anyone in need. The best of this country is represented by the generosity, kindness, solidarity and decency that the United Kingdom has at many times shown those who need our protection, even at times of far greater deprivation and difficulty than the present day.
There is strong multi faith support from local, regional and national religious leaders which demonstrates a shared commitment to the welfare of the most marginalised and a degree of moral and ethical urgency to this issue.
We therefore urge the UK government to do more to welcome stateless people and in particular to adhere to five key principles:
- Implement a range of alternatives to detention to ensure that stateless people do not end up locked in limbo simply because they have no country to which they can return.
- Ensure early identification where a person lacks a nationality, and guarantee that detainees have full access to the UK’s statelessness determination procedure.
- Carry out an individual vulnerability assessment as part of every decision to detain.
- Facilitate integration in the community by regularising stateless people and granting them a residence permit and facilitated access to naturalisation.
Improve monitoring and data collection on statelessness as in order to effectively address the problem it needs to be properly understood.