The Global Assembly invites: Preparatory events in Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Munich

The Global Assembly invites: Preparatory events in Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Munich

At the Borders of Democracy – Webinar on Refuge, Migration and Statelessness

31.01.2024 | 13:00-17:00 MET | Online

The webinar deals with the exclusion from democratic participation and other rights deprivations, which stateless people as well as refugees and migrants experience in different ways. The idea for the webinar was developed within the framework of the Global Assembly, which brought together numerous human rights activists in Frankfurt/Main in May 2023 who will meet here again in March 2024.

The first session of the webinar focuses on how stateless people are excluded from ‘democracy’ and ‘rights’, while the second session pays special attention to the European border regime, which deprives refugees and migrants of fundamental rights. The entire workshop will deal with strategies to combat the deprivation of rights and define loose ends to be further discussed at the Global Assembly in March.


Please register in advance for this webinar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email from Zoom containing information about joining the webinar.


13:00-13:15   Welcome and Introduction

Ramona Lenz, medico international

13:15-14:15   Statelessness – the Ultimate Test to Democracy

Presentations and discussion on the underlying causes of statelessness and on strategies to maximise democratic participation of stateless people

Christiana Bukalo, Statefree

Amal de Chickera, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion

14:30-16:00   Border Regimes

14:30-14:40   Welcome and Introduction

                        Abdul Ghafoor, Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organisation

14:40-15:00  The Brutalisation of Border Controls in Europe and Beyond

Reshad Jalali, Policy Officer European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)

15:00-15:20   How Activists Fight Pushbacks and Experience Criminalization in Southern Europe

Doro Blancke, Refugee Rights Activist, currently in Lesvos, Greece

15:20-15:40   The Situation at the Belarus-Poland Border and what can be done against the Deprivation of Rights at European Borders

Katarzyna Czarnota, Grupa Granica, Helsinki Foundation Warsaw

15:40-15:55 Questions and answers from the all the speakers

16:00-17:00   Resumé and Brainstorming for the Global Assembly in March

Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel

Public evening event in Frankfurt/Main in the aftermath of the webinar

18:00-20:30 “Green Border” by Agnieszka Holland

Mal Seh’n Kino, Adlerflychtstraße 6, 60318 Frankfurt am Main

Film Preview and afterwards discussion with Abdul Ghafoor, AMASO, Valeria Haensel, medico international, and Seebruecke Frankfurt

More information can be found here.


Background Thoughts

Status, over place

Our democracies prioritise ‘status’ – holding a nationality or a particular legal status, in order to be entitled to participate in democracy (to organise, to vote, to seek election etc.); over ‘place’ – living in the territory and subject to the jurisdiction of the democracy at hand. What this means, is that while all people on the territory are subject to the power wielded by the state, it is only those who can claim and prove a particular status (such as citizenship), who have a means of influencing the way this power is used. Stateless people, refugees and migrants – while subject to the power of the state – have no democratic avenues through which to claim and exercise democratic power themselves.

In this context, it is important to look at dual strategies of: 1. Securing the required status for democratic participation of stateless people, refugees and migrants, and 2. Challenging the prioritisation of ‘status’ over ‘place’ in democratic engagement, and pushing for the automatic right of all people living in a particular place, to be agents of democratic change.

Human rights are universal

The protection of the dignity and human rights of every human being are enshrined in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the rights to free development of the personality, to social, political and cultural participation, etc. They are laid down in an equally binding manner in numerous UN conventions and treaties as well as several regional agreements.

The right to nationality is one of several fundamental human rights enshrined in the UDHR. While everyone is entitled to a nationality (and the nationality of a state with which they have a meaningful connection), everyone is also entitled to other human rights, regardless of whether they have a nationality or not. However, it is common practice for nationality to be viewed as a gateway right, and to justify denial of access to other rights, on the basis of lack of nationality. This approach, which prioritises the status of ‘nationality’ over the status of ‘human’ as well as rootedness to a geography, is at the heart of the exclusions and denials that stateless people, refugees and migrants face. Further, this actually motivates authoritarian, populist and racist actors, to exclude communities from access to nationality, as an efficient way to exclude their access to other rights as well.

The wide leeway that states are given to determine conditions and rules for the acquisition or the loss of citizenship, is part of the problem. Thus people can be expatriated without any guarantee (and sometimes even: without any chance) to get citizenship by any other country granted. It is also individual states that are primarily responsible for the protection of refugees and migrants. Neither the Refugee Convention nor any other international treaty enshrines international rules on asylum procedures. Herein lies a central problem.

Universal rights in a system of nation-states

Contrary to their claim of being universally valid, fundamental rights are often only granted to those people who belong to a community/polity/nation that protects their rights. People and groups of people who lose their citizenship due to special circumstances (such as the dissolution of states), or who are not granted citizenship de facto, due to discriminatory citizenship laws or military occupation, or who are arbitrarily deprived of their citizenship due to political dislike, fall through the cracks of the international nation-state system. And they cannot enjoy any right at all, can be exploited and abused as slave of forced sex workers, can even be killed without any legal protection. Instead they are subjected to persecution and internment wherever they try to live because they have no legal status.

Discrepancies between de jure and de facto citizenship

In addition, there are population groups who are de facto arbitrarily denied full citizenship with the respective rights. So-called ‘second-class citizens’ are not entitled to citizenship in another state also.

Another difficult fate applies to entire populations or population groups whose livelihoods are irreversibly destroyed by climate change and other forms of (natural) destruction, without their state of origin being in a position to compensate for losses and damages and who therefore have to leave their country. So far, they have no legal claim to citizenship in another state. Even the decision whether or not people who seek international protection are granted at least refugee status is up to national governments. It is also up to the individual state to guarantee the rights of migrant workers even if there are international conventions to protect them.

Deprived of their rights – refugees and migrants

Refugees and migrants are subjected to practices of rejection, stigmatisation, persecution, internment, and deportation, and de facto are often deprived of rights beyond their country's borders unless they are granted residency in another country. The fortification of borders and walls, landing bans and pushbacks are practices by which the supposed normality and functioning of the international nation-state system is politically propped up.

Intersecting layers of exclusion

In doing so, it is important to address the particular significance of intersectionality of discrimination (based on poverty, gender, race,….) in causing and perpetuating statelessness on the one hand, and undermining the rights of stateless people on the other.

Women e.g. are particularly affected by statelessness in 25 countries due to gender-discriminatory provisions of nationality law and without a legal status female stateless persons, migrants and refugees are exposed to specific forms of patriarchal, racist, and sexual violence and can fall victim of human trafficking.

Exploring the issues, discussing alternative concepts and practises:

This Workshop aims

  • to expose the implications of statelessness, of the deprivation of rights of refugees and migrants, of the discrepancy between de jure and de facto citizenship as contrary to the universality of human rights and to the idea of full participation of people in democratic systems.
  • to analyse why people are made and kept stateless, kept out or pushed back from borders, treated as second class citizens? Who benefits, and how does this undermine democracy and rights?
  • to explore “cosmopolitan conditions” from a variety of perspectives and experiences, that secure the human and civil rights, including democratic rights to participation, for all individuals and groups beyond state borders, opening up options of belonging.

Making cracks in the border(s)

We want to ask

  • for networks of solidarity that undermine and break up the stigmatising classification system at the borders; for media and artistic practices that make the no (wo)man's land of the camps visible;
  • for models of solidarity that advocate for true freedom of movement: the right to stay, the right to go, the right to arrive. Lobbying and legal struggles could also be discussed for a right to citizenship, against illegal pushbacks and border security, and for the enforcement of the principle of universal jurisdiction and alike;
  • for changes in German and European policies
    • in order to end rejection, stigmatisation, persecution, internment and deportation and
    • in favor of less discrimination, more regular ways to migration through labor migration and other forms of migration in order to ensure that statelessness isn‘t a barrier to democratic participation or other rights
  • for municipal policies for the protection and inclusion of people with precarious status