The rights of a 10-year-old boy were denied when the Netherlands failed to acknowledge that he was stateless and eligible for international protection, a UN committee has found. It is the first such decision on the right of children to acquire nationality.
The UN Human Rights Committee has determined that Dutch authorities violated the rights of a 10-year-old boy, Denny Z., by registering him as “nationality unknown,” rather than "stateless."
Denny was born in the Dutch city of Utrecht in 2010 to a Chinese mother who had been trafficked to the Netherlands in 2004 at the age of 15 and forced into prostitution.
She eventually escaped and reported to police that she had been a victim of human trafficking, however, authorities were unable to locate her traffickers and in 2009, closed their investigation. All her applications and appeals for protection in the Netherlands were denied and she was classified as an "illegal alien."
When it came to applying for international protection for her son – whose father does not recognize paternity – she encountered a new set of problems.
No 'proof' of statelessness
Denny’s mother had herself been abandoned at birth, and so was not recorded in the civil registry in China. As she was unable to obtain Chinese citizenship for herself, she could not provide proof of Denny’s nationality.
But neither could she provide conclusive proof that he was not Chinese and therefore "stateless," which would have given him the right to apply for the nationality of the country in which he was born, the Netherlands.
Court after court said that it was up to Denny and his mother to show evidence, such as official documents from Chinese authorities confirming that he did not have Chinese citizenship – documents that had been impossible to obtain – to prove his lack of a nationality.
After years of efforts, in 2016, Denny’s mother petitioned the UN Human Rights Committee, a team of 18 independent experts that monitors whether countries are sticking to their human rights commitments, but does not have enforcement powers.
Finally, this week, the committee released a statement saying that the Netherlands had violated Denny’s rights. They urged Dutch authorities to register Denny as stateless and to give him Dutch citizenship.
Right to nationality
"States have the responsibility to ensure that stateless children … who have no possibility to acquire any other nationality are not left without legal protection," committee member Shuichi Furuya said in the statement.
Many more children may be in a similar situation to Denny. Official Dutch statistics show that as of September 2016, 13,169 children under 10 were registered in the country as having "unknown nationality" – many of them born in the Netherlands, according to the committee.
Denny and his mother are currently living in a center for rejected asylum seekers with young children. He has no contact with Dutch society and is under permanent threat of deportation from the Netherlands, the only country he has ever lived in.
The committee has called on the Netherlands to review its laws and to provide Denny with compensation, giving the country 180 days to provide details on what measures have been taken.