Advocacy update

Court Moves to Protect Venezuelan Children born in Colombia from Statelessness

January 31, 2020
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A court in Colombia has ruled that the government must consider statelessness risks when determining the nationality of children born in Colombia to Venezuelans fleeing their country's political and economic chaos—a decision affecting as many as 24,000 children.

The court found on January 17, 2020 that the Colombian National Civil Registry had violated the rights to nationality and legal personality of the children of two applicants by omitting to consider the risk of statelessness faced.

Unlike most countries in the Americas, Colombia only allows nationality by birth in the territory to children whose parents either are Colombian nationals or hold proof of residency.

In one of the two cases, the father, a carpenter, entered Colombia in 2017 on his Venezuelan passport. Colombian officials granted him a “Special Permit for Permanence”  to remain in Colombia on a temporary basis, allowing access to basic rights such as education, health and work. Deciding that Colombia was a safer place for their child to be born, his partner arrived in 2018 and gave birth to their child in Medellin. They petitioned to the National Civil Registry to recognize that the child’s birth certificate served as proof of its Colombian nationality. Their request was denied.

In its judgement, the court found that, since “the risk of statelessness was evident,”  it was mandatory for the National Civil Registry to recognize the birth registration without any other requirements, and called for the  “recognition the nationality of both children.”

The Justice Initiative advised local partners on the litigation and submitted an amicus brief, which focused on the international legal framework and obligations of states with respect to children’s right to nationality. 

Some four million people have fled economic hardship and political turmoil in Venezuela, and approximately 1.4 million have migrated to Colombia in recent years. 

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