Denny, a six old without nationality, files a complaint against Netherlands at the UN

Denny was born in the Netherlands. His mother is from China, and, due to being trafficked, no longer has any identity documents. His father is not around. Denny cannot obtain Chinese nationality, nor can he get Dutch nationality as he does not have a Dutch residence permit. He also cannot be deported to China. Together with his mother, Denny lives in a legal limbo, forced to stay for years in a shelter for undocumented people where their freedom is restricted.

At the municipality, Denny is registered as ‘nationality unknown.’ If he were to be registered as ‘stateless’, he could call upon the protection of the UN statelessness treaties. This would grant him more rights and eventually allow him to gain Dutch nationality. However, because the Netherlands lacks the procedures to legally determine statelessness, this is not possible for Denny.

In their judgment on Denny’s case, the Dutch judges declared that whilst the gap in Dutch law did violate the Netherlands international obligations under the UN statelessness treaties, it was for the government to resolve.

The government has now written a proposal for legislations that would implement a procedure for the recognition of stateless persons. Whilst this represents a first initiative, the proposal itself requires improvement and could take years before it’s implemented. As such, it is unclear when and if Denny’s problem can be solved.

In the meantime, Denny’s lack of nationality causes him to suffer every day. Furthermore, he cannot solve or change this situation on his own. For these reasons, Denny has filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee.

Denny’s situation is a good example of what kind of problems children without a nationality in the Netherlands face. The complaint was therefore also sent to the government in its consultation round for the new legislative proposal. We hope the related decision will help the Dutch government devising an improved proposal for a law on a statelessness recognition procedure.

Laura Bingham, an American human rights lawyer working for OSJI, and Jelle Klaas, Denny’s Dutch human rights lawyer working for the Fischer Groep and the PILP, developed the complaint and letter of consultation.