UN human rights committee criticises the Netherlands over child with ‘nationality unknown’

Photo: Depositphotos.com
Photo: Depositphotos,com

The UN’s human rights committee says the Netherlands has violated a child’s rights by registering ‘nationality unknown’ in official records because this means he could not be registered as ‘stateless’ under Dutch law and therefore be given international protection as a stateless child.

The UN finding focuses on Denny, who was born in Utrecht in 2010 to a 21 year-old mother from China who had been trafficked to the Netherlands in 2004 and forced into prostitution.

She eventually escaped and reported what had happened to her to the Dutch police. However, the UN report says, the police closed the investigation as they could not identify her traffickers and her residency status is currently that of an ‘illegal alien’.

As Denny’s mother was herself abandoned by her parents and her birth was not recorded in the civil registry in China, she was unable to obtain Chinese citizenship and wasn’t able to provide proof of Denny’s nationality. Denny was therefore registered in the Dutch BRP database with the annotation ‘unknown nationality’.

‘States have the responsibility to ensure that stateless children under their jurisdiction who have no possibility to acquire any other nationality are not left without legal protection,’ said committee member Shuichi Furuya in a statement. ‘The right to nationality ensures concrete protection for individuals, in particular children.

The committee has now asked the Netherlands to review its decisions on Denny’s application to be registered as stateless, and on his application to be recognised as a Dutch citizen, as well as overhauling the relevant legislation.

According to national statistics agency CBS, in September 2016 there were 13,169 children in the Netherlands under the age of 10 registered with ‘unknown nationality’, many of whom had been born in the Netherlands, the UN said.


Denny and his mother filed their petition to the UN committee in 2016. They currently live in a centre for failed asylum seekers with young children under threat of deportation.

The Netherlands is in the process of updating its legislation on being stateless or having no known nationality. In July 2019, junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol told MPs that she would provide more information later that year, but that the process is a complicated one.

DutchNews.nl has contacted the ministry for an update and for a response to the UN findings.

Children who are born in the Netherlands, have a residence permit and are classified as ‘stateless’ are entitled to claim Dutch nationality after three years.

Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl.

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation