Having children abroad? Your country may not want them

Thu Nov 25, 2010 5:20pm EST
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By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) - Baby Rachel's dad is Canadian, her mother is Chinese and 14 months after her birth in Beijing she's finally a citizen too...of Ireland.

However, Chloe -- who was born a month later in Brussels to Canadian and Algerian parents -- is still stateless.

The two girls and their professional parents are confronting the increasingly common problem of securing nationality for children of the more than 200 million people who choose to live, work and study outside of their home countries.

Most of the world's estimated 12 million stateless people -- who cannot cross national borders -- are poor, marginalized and live mainly in Kuwait, Nepal, Iraq, Myanmar, Thailand and the former Soviet republics.

But Mark Manly, head of the statelessness unit at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that gaps between national citizenship laws have put high-flying professionals around the globe in the same boat as migrants and refugees when it comes to getting passports for their kids.

"Far more people live outside their country of nationality than before, and there are more children born to parents of different countries," he said. "We have a lot of situations where the children are not acquiring any nationality at all."

Certain countries, including Switzerland, Japan and much of the European Union, do not confer citizenship automatically to babies born on their soil. In such places, expats whose own nationality cannot be transmitted abroad can find themselves with more than the usual dose of new-parent stress.

'FLABBERGASTED'   Continued...

<p>Maria-Jose Poblete (L) poses with her husband Christophe Ferreira (R) and their son Mateo in Paris June 11, 2010. Poblete was born in Canada and raised in Chile and Ferreira was born in France. Their son Mateo, born in France in June, had to obtain Chilean citizenship through his grandparents because his foreign-born mother could not pass her citizenship on to him. Mateo is now French and Chilean. While it is hard to quantify how many professionals abroad are facing nationality trouble, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said citizenship laws were not designed for the international life that many professionals today are pursuing. Picture taken June 11, 2010. REUTERS/Handout</p>