Coventry Peace House, 'Statelessness: the quiet torture of belonging nowhere'

IssueOctober 2009
Review by Susan Clarkson

At the beginning of 2008, Coventry Peace House launched a campaign to highlight the plight of stateless people. This book – launched in Refugee Week 2008 – is the result of collaboration by workers on the campaign. Both campaign and book raise the issue of statelessness in Britain and globally, providing a valuable contribution to the wider issue of the sufferings of asylum seekers and the various ways in which this is addressed in Britain today.

The book begins by giving an overview of global statelessness and international law. A more detailed view of the issue in Britain follows. In both sections stories of how groups of people and individuals can become stateless clearly and effectively illustrate the points made in the main body of the text.

The chapters on “Life in Britain” and “The Power of the State” give helpful descriptions of the asylum process and the gradual growth of stringent border control legislation. The book gives a summary of all the different campaigns working on behalf of asylum seekers before highlighting the specific nature of the campaign that inspired the book.

This is a valuable resource for all who work for, with, or alongside asylum seekers in Britain. It has an extensive list of contacts and campaigns, is written in a clear and simple style and is undoubtedly the work of committed, passionate people.

The writers do not claim this little book to be a comprehensive view of the subject of statelessness but acknowledge that it is a beginning.

“It seems we have lost our sense of direction and our vision. We are in a situation now of allowing our government to violate human rights on a massive scale. If we turn away and collude with this oppression we lose our own humanity. We need to act.” (p104)

Topics: Refugees
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