Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Progress in the Protection of Human Rights of Migrant Children and in Efforts to End Statelessness in Chile

June 22, 2017

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights welcomes the launch of the “Chile Reconoce” project, by which Chilean nationality is recognized for persons born in Chile to fathers or mothers in a situation of irregular migration. This constitutes an important step forward in efforts to end statelessness in Chile.

On May 25, 2017, the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, introduced the “Chile Reconoce” project—an inter-institutional initiative of the State, civil society, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—in the framework of the international #IBelong campaign. The project, which seeks to eradicate and prevent statelessness in Chile, has led to recognition of Chilean nationality for 100 children. The Commission commends what President Bachelet had to say at the launch: “We hope to continue developing this project, this program, so that the 2,000 Chileans who in 2016 appeared in the records as children of transient foreigners—according to the Civil Registry—can have their nationality recognized. In this way, and after a course correction in this area, Chile is officially recognizing something that was obvious today but that our legal system had forgotten: that everyone has the right to a nationality, and because these children, adolescents, and adults were born in Chile, they are unquestionably Chileans.”

To put the project into effect, the participating entities traveled to the Arica and Parinacota region and the Tarapacá region to contact individuals registered as children of transient foreigners and to finally recognize their Chilean nationality. The project will benefit more than 2,000 people who were recorded in the Civil Registry as “child of transient foreigner,” instead of as Chilean nationals—a situation that had put them at risk of being stateless.

The “Chile Reconoce” project provides alignment towards meeting the international human rights obligations of the Chilean State, as well as the commitments made pursuant to the 2014 Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action and the UNHCR’s Global Action Plan to End Statelessness: 2014-2024. The “Chile Reconoce” project is in keeping with what the Supreme Court of Chile had already determined when it established that “the original administrative criterion for distinguishing foreigners who are transient from those who are not has been changed” and that now preference is given to a person’s residence as the “main element” in determining transience. It also said that “nationality is a right essential to human beings, an attribute of personhood, which cannot be denied without just cause.”

“This is a good practice, regionally and globally, of coordination between civil society, international organizations, and government agencies which can be replicated by other States in the region as an excellent way to prevent and eradicate statelessness in the Americas. Based on measures such as this one, our region can position itself as the first in the world to end statelessness,” said IACHR Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants. “The countries of the region have a commitment—a commitment that belongs to all of us, which is that by 2024 there will not be a single stateless person in the region, that there will not be anyone without a nationality and without rights, that we will not have left anyone’s life on hold,” Commissioner Vargas added. “That is why these measures in Chile are so important, because these are lives that the Chilean State has recovered. Here at the Commission we are at the disposition to collaborate with the States of the region in everything in our reach on these types of initiatives.”

The IACHR urges the States in the region to adopt similar practices to eradicate and prevent statelessness. It reminds the States that every person has the right to a nationality, and every person has the right to the nationality of the State in whose territory the person was born if he or she does not have the right to any other nationality. Moreover, the IACHR reminds the States that it is a discriminatory practice to consider someone’s immigration situation in granting nationality. A person’s immigration status cannot be a condition for the State to grant nationality, because immigration status can never constitute a justification for depriving a person of the right to nationality or the enjoyment and exercise of his or her rights, and a person’s immigration status is not transmitted to the children.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and defense of human rights in the region, and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 082/17