From file: A migrant woman and her child arrive to the port in Motril, Spain, 26 January 2018 | Photo: Miguel Paquet / EPA
From file: A migrant woman and her child arrive to the port in Motril, Spain, 26 January 2018 | Photo: Miguel Paquet / EPA

A Spanish court has granted a little girl, born on a migrant boat in 2018, Spanish nationality, in a first in the country. Until now, the little girl had been stateless and could not access healthcare or education.

A Spanish court has granted citizenship to a little girl who was born on a migrant boat on its way to Spain in May 2018.

Since her birth to a Cameroonian mother, the little girl has only ever lived in Spain. However, being born in, or near, Spain, is not enough to confer nationality on a child. Instead -- like many other countries -- in order to qualify for citizenship, Spain requires a child to be born to at least one parent with the Spanish nationality, or to be the child of someone who has lived in Spain for more than ten years, or to be the child of someone who is married to a Spanish national,

But, according to the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP), the court authorities in the province of Guipuzcoa in Basque Country, said it had made the decision to grant the child Spanish nationality based on the child’s best interests, which they described as a "constitutionally legitimate objective."

Stateless girl

The court argued that leaving the little girl stateless would have "put her in a situation of inequality compared to other children" and would have been a "significant negation of her basic rights including the right to education."

In the intervening years, the girl’s mother has been registered by the Spanish authorities but the daughter was not registered which prevented her from accessing health care or education.

The ruling, reported Euronews, is a confirmation of an earlier court decision dating from November 2021 that the Spanish government had challenged. However, Spain’s Supreme Court could still overturn this latest decision.

The news agency AP, said that the court's press office and the Spanish Commission for Refugees declared that this decision was the first of its kind for a European Union country.

Spanish Supreme Court could overturn decision

According to AP, on arrival in Spain, the Cameroonian mother sent a request to her embassy to obtain a passport for her daughter. However, she was told by the embassy that she would need a birth certificate from Morocco, or must return to Cameroon. The mother then reportedly asked Moroccan officials for a birth certificate and passport, but didn’t hear back.

She then started the process in Spain, where, for now, her daughter has been granted citizenship. France 24 reported that the little girl, called Anna, was now four years old and that she and her mother were happy that they could now live legally in Spain.

Setting a precedent?

Anna's case could affect other stateless children born to migrants in a similar situation.

In 2021, almost 1,000 children arrived in similar circumstances to Anna in Spain, according to a report from French news channel France 24. Their correspondent in Spain, Sarah Morris, said Anna’s case could allow other undocumented children to claim citizenship rights too.

She said that organizations which work with migrants in Spain "are hoping that this case could set some kind of precedent." Morris added that Anna’s case had also been supported by officials at the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR,

An official from UNHCR told France 24 that he didn’t know if it would change other children's citizenship status but he hoped it would "start people thinking more closely about the rights of [migrant] children" who arrive with their parents without papers and struggle to access things like healthcare and education until they obtain some kind of identity document.

 

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