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Children Without a State

Children Without a State: A Global Human Rights Challenge

Edited by Jacqueline Bhabha
foreword by Mary Robinson
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Children Without a State
    Book Description:

    Children are among the most vulnerable citizens of the world, with a special need for the protections, rights, and services offered by states. And yet children are particularly at risk from statelessness. Thirty-six percent of all births in the world are not registered, leaving more than forty-eight million children under the age of five with no legal identity and no formal claim on any state. Millions of other children are born stateless or become undocumented as a result of migration. Children Without a State is the first book to examine how statelessness affects children throughout the world, examining this largely unexplored problem from a human rights perspective. The human rights repercussions explored range from dramatic abuses (detention and deportation) to social marginalization (lack of access to education and health care). The book provides a variety of examples, including chapters on Palestinian children in Israel, undocumented young people seeking higher education in the United States, unaccompanied child migrants in Spain, Roma children in Italy, irregular internal child migrants in China, and children in mixed legal/illegal families in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29543-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Mary Robinson

    For close to a century, with growing focus and specificity, the international community has recognized states’ obligations toward vulnerable children, including those who are stateless. In 1924, the League of Nations adopted the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child and proclaimed that “mankind owes to the Child the best that it has to give.” A quarter century later, the United Nations signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, agreeing that “childhood [is] entitled to special care and assistance.” And in 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child mandated that “the child shall be registered...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Jacqueline Bhabha
  5. 1 From Citizen to Migrant: The Scope of Child Statelessness in the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 1-40)
    Jacqueline Bhabha

    Legal identity does not guarantee a good life, but its absence is a serious impediment to it. An absence of legal identity interferes with many fundamental encounters between the individual and the state. It affects the individual’s capacity to make claims on the state, and it disrupts the state’s ability to plan and provide resources and services to the individual. This problem takes two conceptually distinct forms—the lack of legal identity and the inability to prove the legal identity that one does have. The former, the lack of legal identity, characterizes bothde jure(orlegally)statelesspeople (people...

  6. I Legal Statelessness

    • 2 Neither Seen nor Heard: Compound Deprivation among Stateless Children
      (pp. 43-66)
      Brad K. Blitz

      The plight of stateless children has not drawn the interest of many academics, human-rights activists, or policy makers. With the exception of Refugees International and the joint campaigns by Plan International, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and their associated partners to promote birth registration, the rights of children to a name, an identity, and a nationality are among the least charted aspects of human-rights advocacy and social scientific work in statelessness. Most of what has been published in this area has failed to single out the right to nationality and to acknowledge statelessness (which has its own definition under...

    • 3 Volatile Citizenship or Statelessness? Citizen Children of Palestinian Descent and the Loss of Nationality in Israel
      (pp. 67-88)
      Christina O. Alfirev

      “On our wedding day, I was alone,” Kifah explains, reenacting the occasion by dancing without the bridegroom across the screen of Ayelet Bechar’s 2005 documentary filmJust Married. Kifah, a Palestinian Israeli citizen, married Yazid, a Palestinian man from the Gaza Strip. They had first met in Germany, and she eventually returned to live in Germany after the wedding ceremony so she could be with her husband, even though this meant giving up her high-ranking position at Israel’s ministry of culture. Kifah returns to Israel when she is pregnant to arrange the necessary paperwork for her unborn child. The social...

    • 4 Human Rights and Citizenship: The Need for Better Data and What to Do about It
      (pp. 89-106)
      Bela Hovy

      The protection of noncitizens is a joint responsibility implicating both the country of citizenship and the country of residence. The latter is responsible for guaranteeing basic human, economic, and social rights while the former retains the obligation to grant legal protection and to protect political rights, including the right to vote. Despite these two sets of obligations and duty bearers, noncitizens face numerous protection challenges that are well illustrated by the circumstances of migrant workers and their families. As the 2009 United Nations Human Development Report,Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development, documents, this population remains vulnerable to exploitation in...

  7. II De Facto Statelessness

    • 5 Undocumented Children in Europe: Ignored Victims of Immigration Restrictions
      (pp. 109-130)
      Luca Bicocchi

      Undocumented children² in Europe are a differentiated and diverse group. They include children who arrive in Europe to be reunited with their family but who do not qualify under official family-reunification schemes, children who enter irregularly with one or more relatives, children who are born in Europe to undocumented parents, children who are sent to Europe by their families in search of better conditions, and children who have run away from home but are not accommodated within social-service-run reception facilities for unaccompanied and separated minors.³

      The Platform for International Cooperation for Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) has energetically monitored and advocated for...

    • 6 Realizing the Rights of Undocumented Children in Europe
      (pp. 131-150)
      Jyothi Kanics

      International human-rights law has evolved to offer many entitlements and protections to undocumented migrant children. Most notably, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is nearly universally ratified, includes basic principles and detailed provisions that, when implemented, should ensure equal access to services and education as well as equitable treatment and protection to all children. Additionally, at both the European and national levels, legislative and policy measures have been taken to further the rights of all children.

      Despite these protective measures, undocumented migrant children, who may indeed have some documentation but who lack the legal...

    • 7 Unaccompanied and Separated Children in Spain: A Policy of Institutional Mistreatment
      (pp. 151-176)
      Daniel Senovilla Hernández

      Spain is one of the main destinations in Europe for migrating children,¹ most of whom are African. The challenges arising from their migration are numerous and reflect a range of complex factors, including migrant children’s sociodemographic profiles and immigration status, unsatisfactory state policies relating to the reception of these children, and deficiencies in the public guardianship system. This chapter examines how Spanish authorities interpret international and national laws that are meant to protect children and avoid taking responsibility for migrant children who arrive on their shores.

      For over a decade, national and regional authorities in Spain have chosen to return...

    • 8 Undocumented Migrant and Roma Children in Italy: Between Rights Protection and Control
      (pp. 177-216)
      Elena Rozzi

      On May 30, 2008, Italy’s Berlusconi government ordered the census and identification, including fingerprinting, of people who live in nomad settlements³ in three Italian regions.⁴ Children were included. The declared goals of the provision appeared ambiguous. On the one hand, it was intended to show the public that the state was tackling the problem of nomad camps by enacting harsh security and public-order policies, fighting crime and illegal migration, and removing unauthorized settlements. The census, in fact, was part of the extraordinary measures taken within the state of emergency declared by the government.⁵ These measures equated the settlements of nomad...

    • 9 Undocumented Students, College Education, and Life Beyond
      (pp. 217-236)
      Stephen H. Legomsky

      In her thoughtful introduction to this volume, Jacqueline Bhabha identifies three broad categories of stateless individuals—the legally stateless, thede factostateless, and the effectively stateless. Bhabha’s elaboration of the second category is particularly useful: “people who have a nationality but whose status where they reside is not legal because they are illegal, irregular, or undocumented migrants in their current location.”

      This chapter focuses on a population that fits squarely within that second category—undocumented immigrant children and their functional exclusion from postsecondary education in the United States. Undocumented immigrants are not literally stateless; they have not been stripped...

    • 10 Clashing Values and Cross Purposes: Immigration Law’s Marginalization of Children and Families
      (pp. 237-254)
      David B. Thronson

      In the United States, immigration law ascribes great significance to the family generally and the parent-child relationship in particular. Yet in contrast to core principles and values underlying family law and other general policies advancing child welfare that emphasize the importance and interests of children, immigration law employs a parent-centered conception of family that systemically devalues children. The operation of U.S. immigration law therefore often works in opposition to a host of laws and policies directed at children and their welfare. It can be a powerful force in marginalizing children, separating them from the protection of their state and converting...

    • 11 Birthright Citizenship: The Vulnerability and Resilience of an American Constitutional Principle
      (pp. 255-276)
      Linda K. Kerber

      The fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was carefully crafted to deflect the former states of the Confederacy from reconstructing a civic order almost as oppressive as slavery had been.² That its majestic first clause—establishingjus soli(birth on U.S. soil) as central to citizenship—would quickly come to be understood as the heart of the Constitution and as the trigger for the incorporation of the Bill of Rights into the federal system, was not predicted. But as the last British governor of Massachusetts ruefully observed of Harvard College students on the eve of the American Revolution, “the spirit...

  8. III Effective Statelessness

    • 12 China: Ensuring Equal Access to Education and Health Care for Children of Internal Migrants
      (pp. 279-306)
      Kirsten Di Martino

      Since the 1990s, China has experienced rapid but highly uneven development that accentuates the divide between urban and rural communities. One of the key features of this development is large-scale migration from rural areas to urban centers. China’s migrant workforce of 150 million represents the largest movement of people in modern history.

      The Chinese government has embraced internal migration as essential to the national development strategy. If this migration is managed effectively, the government sees it as a means to increase rural incomes, restructure the economy, and level urban, rural, and regional disparities. However, maximizing the benefits of internal migration...

    • 13 To Register or Not to Register? Legal Identity, Birth Registration, and Inclusive Development
      (pp. 307-330)
      Caroline Vandenabeele

      Legal identity—the right to have one’s existence recognized—is a basic human right that few would question.Legal identity, for the purpose of this chapter, is defined as a person’s legal—as opposed to physical—personality, which allows that person to enjoy the legal system’s protection, to enforce his or her rights, and to demand redress for violations by accessing courts and other law-enforcement institutions. Legal identity, or the right to be recognized by the government of the country of which one is a citizen, is a primary right that exists regardless of whether one has a document to...

    • 14 Children with a (Local) State: Identity Registration at Birth in English History since 1538
      (pp. 331-352)
      Simon Szreter

      As this volume’s introduction points out, all children live under the imperfect realities of specific national state jurisdictions. This means that any examination of the human rights of children must grapple with a range of legal and practical problems. This subject cannot confine itself to matters of moral philosophy. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been ratified by virtually all the world’s nations—apart from the broken state of Somalia and the scandalous exception of the United States, whose inexcusable failure to ratify has been the subject of an important new study.¹ However, the...

  9. Suggested Reading
    (pp. 353-368)
  10. About the Contributors
    (pp. 369-372)
  11. Index
    (pp. 373-376)