Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Actions to Protect the Right to a Nationality and to Prevent Statelessness in the Region

February 25, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes actions taken by Chile, Colombia, Haiti, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay to protect the right to a nationality. The IACHR calls on States to keep adopting measures to ensure an effective enjoyment of that right, and to prevent and eradicate statelessness in the region.

On January 16, 2019, Executive Decree 10 went into force in Panama. It grants protection to stateless persons in the country and offers them the opportunity to seek naturalization. This decree positions Panama among the countries who have taken significant steps to eradicate statelessness in the Americas.

Similarly, in Uruguay, Act 19,682 on Recognition and Protection for Stateless Persons went into force on November 7, 2018. That act—the region’s second specific law on the issue—includes the adoption of a process to establish within a maximum of 270 days whether a given person is stateless.

On September 19, 2018, Act 6,149 on Protection and Assistance to Enable Naturalization for Stateless Persons went into force in Paraguay. That act was the first piece of legislation to specifically address this issue in the region. Paraguay’s act entrusts the National Commission on Refugees with identifying stateless persons within a maximum of 180 days, granting them protection and making it possible to resolve their situation through naturalization. Further, the IACHR highlights important progress contained in that act, including a procedure to enable late registration of births, as well as a provision to grant access to Paraguayan nationality through consulates and embassies, for children of Paraguayan citizens who are born abroad and would be stateless based on the legal provisions of their countries of birth.

Haiti and Chile formally adhered to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, by depositing the relevant official instruments with the United Nations Secretariat in New York. Haiti did so on September 27, 2018, during the General Assembly of the United Nations. Chile deposited the relevant instruments on April 11, 2018. Adhering to those conventions complements national legal frameworks, to facilitate access to a nationality and to offer protection to people who face hurdles when they try to access that right.

As a noteworthy precedent, on April 4, 2018, Colombia’s Constitutional Court published in its official website Decision T-023/18 of February 5, 2018, on children’s right to a nationality. In that decision, the Court asked the Register Office to record a girl’s birth even out of the formal registration window, without requiring that it be apostilled, as long as she appeared before the Register Office with at least two witnesses who certified that birth. That court decision is in line with other developments in Colombia, including Memo 168 issued by the National Civil Status Register Office on December 22, 2017, which mandated civil registration of the children of foreigners who were born in Colombia and who were not granted a nationality by any other State, without requiring proof of domicile. That way, Colombia took action to ensure birth registration and to facilitate access to a nationality for people who would otherwise risk being stateless.

“The actions taken by Panama, Uruguay, Haiti, Paraguay, Chile and Colombia show those States’ commitment, given the importance of protecting the right to a nationality and of preventing and eradicating statelessness in the Americas. With those measures, six more countries joined recent moves to set up legal frameworks that ensure effective enjoyment of the right to a nationality for all people in the region, and they joined actions previously implemented by Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Brazil,” said Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants.
“One factor that the Commission considers relevant is that many of those moves have been the result of synergies and joint efforts between State authorities, various civil society organizations including the Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the IACHR itself,” Commissioner Vargas Silva added.

Considering the mass migration movements that have been happening in the region in recent years and, in particular, the challenges faced by the children of migrant persons in terms of their right to a nationality and their right to an identity, the IACHR stresses that—based on the jurisprudence of the Inter-American System and on Joint General Comments 3 and 4 of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and Joint General Comments 23 and 24 of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child—it is essential to guarantee that all children are immediately registered at the Register Office, at birth, and obtain their birth certificates, whatever their own or their parents’ migrant status. Further, they must be handed documents that prove their nationality. Legal frameworks need to be in place to protect stateless persons, by setting up procedures to determine whether a person is stateless along with mechanisms that grant such persons access to a nationality. The IACHR insists on its call to States, so they keep adopting measures to ensure full access to and an effective enjoyment of the right to a nationality, and to prevent and eradicate statelessness.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 042/19