Skip navigation
Hardcover | $7.75 Short | £6.95 | 392 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 map, 7 graphs, 3 tables | March 2011 | ISBN: 9780262015271
Paperback | $25.00 Short | £19.95 | 392 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 map, 7 graphs, 3 tables | January 2014 | ISBN: 9780262525992
eBook | $18.00 Short | March 2011 | ISBN: 9780262296175
Mouseover for Online Attention Data

Look Inside

Children Without a State

A Global Human Rights Challenge
Foreword by Mary Robinson


Children are among the most vulnerable citizens of the world, with a special need for the protections, rights, and services offered by states. And yet children are particularly at risk from statelessness. Thirty-six percent of all births in the world are not registered, leaving more than forty-eight million children under the age of five with no legal identity and no formal claim on any state. Millions of other children are born stateless or become undocumented as a result of migration. Children Without a State is the first book to examine how statelessness affects children throughout the world, examining this largely unexplored problem from a human rights perspective.

The human rights repercussions explored range from dramatic abuses (detention and deportation) to social marginalization (lack of access to education and health care). The book provides a variety of examples, including chapters on Palestinian children in Israel, undocumented young people seeking higher education in the United States, unaccompanied child migrants in Spain, Roma children in Italy, irregular internal child migrants in China, and children in mixed legal/illegal families in the United States.

About the Editor

Jacqueline Bhabha is Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health. She is the coauthor of Seeking Asylum Alone: Unaccompanied and Separated Children and Refugee Protection.

Table of Contents

  • Children Without a State
  • Children Without a State
  • A Global Human Rights Challenge
  • Edited by Jacqueline Bhabha
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • ©
  • 2011
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please email
  • This book was set in Sabon by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Children without a state : a global human rights challenge / edited by Jacqueline Bhabha.
  •  p. cm.
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-01527-1 (hardcover : alk. paper)
  • 1. Immigrant children—Civil rights. 2. Immigrant children—Legal status, laws, etc. 3. Human rights. I. Bhabha, Jacqueline.
  • JV6344.C45 2011
  • 323.3′2912—dc22
  • 2010030453
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • Never let anyone tell you that you cannot make a difference. You can. What’s more—
  • you must
  • .
  • —Albina du Boisrouvray, Founder and chair, François-Xavier Bagnoud Foundation, UNESCO opening address, December 4, 2009
  • Contents
  • Foreword by Mary Robinson xi
  • Preface xiii
  • 1 From Citizen to Migrant:
  • The Scope of Child Statelessness in the Twenty-First Century 1
  • Jacqueline Bhabha
  • I Legal Statelessness
  • 2 Neither Seen nor Heard:
  • Compound Deprivation among Stateless Children 43
  • Kashmiris in the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Banyamulenge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh
  • Brad K. Blitz
  • 3 Volatile Citizenship or Statelessness?
  • Citizen Children of Palestinian Descent and the Loss of Nationality in Israel 67
  • Palestinian citizens in Israel
  • Christina O. Alfirev
  • 4 Human Rights and Citizenship:
  • The Need for Better Data and What to Do about It 89
  • The contribution of statistical data to assess the scope of statelessness
  • Bela Hovy
  • II De Facto Statelessness
  • 5 Undocumented Children in Europe:
  • Ignored Victims of Immigration Restrictions 109
  • A European overview of Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom
  • Luca Bicocchi
  • 6 Realizing the Rights of Undocumented Children in Europe 131
  • Europe, specifically Ireland
  • Jyothi Kanics
  • 7 Unaccompanied and Separated Children in Spain:
  • A Policy of Institutional Mistreatment 151
  • Unaccompanied and separated child migrants in Spain
  • Daniel Senovilla Hernández
  • 8 Undocumented Migrant and Roma Children in Italy:
  • Between Rights Protection and Control 177
  • Roma and migrant children in Italy
  • Elena Rozzi
  • 9 Undocumented Students, College Education, and Life Beyond 217
  • Undocumented college students in the United States
  • Stephen H. Legomsky
  • 10 Clashing Values and Cross Purposes:
  • Immigration Law’s Marginalization of Children and Families 237
  • Children in mixed status families in the United States
  • David B. Thronson
  • 11 Birthright Citizenship:
  • The Vulnerability and Resilience of an American Constitutional Principle 255
  • Statelessness in U.S. history, with reference to migrant children of citizen parents
  • Linda K. Kerber
  • III Effective Statelessness
  • 12 China:
  • Ensuring Equal Access to Education and Health Care for Children of Internal Migrants 279
  • Internal migration in China
  • Kirsten Di Martino
  • 13 To Register or Not to Register?
  • Legal Identity, Birth Registration, and Inclusive Development 307
  • Legal identity in Nepal, Cambodia, and Bangladesh
  • Caroline Vandenabeele
  • 14 Children with a (Local) State:
  • Identity Registration at Birth in English History since 1538 331
  • Identity registration in England since the sixteenth century
  • Simon Szreter
  • Suggested Reading 353
  • About the Contributors 369
  • Index 373


“This collection will not only make valuable contributions to the policy making that improves the straitened environment of stateless children, but will also be of great interest to policy makers, human rights advocates and scholars of human rights and international relations.”—Political Studies Review


Children Without a State is unique in combining scholarship on child rights with scholarship on immigration, citizenship, and statelessness. The book does an excellent job of moving from largely academic, theoretical, and legal frameworks to an examination of the situation on the ground.”
Susan F. Martin, Donald G. Hertzberg Chair in International Migration, and Director, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University
“The essays in this book speak to an urgent issue that is sadly overlooked in scholarly and policy discourses about citizenship and immigration rights: the rights of children who are legally or effectively stateless. As dependent legal subjects, children are the most vulnerable amongst us and hence have the greatest need of state protection. The book’s scope is impressive, with discussion of state practices and their consequences within industrialized and developing countries and under conditions of global, regional, and internal migrations.”
Mae M. Ngai, Professor of History and Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies, Columbia University
“This is an important and timely volume that will add significantly to the existing literature on migration and citizenship law. Childhood marks a status of less-than-full membership that renders individuals vulnerable as a matter of law and social practice in relation to adults. This is the first book-length study that systematically analyzes the interface between national status vulnerability and childhood.”
Linda Bosniak, School of Law, Rutgers University, and author of The Citizen and the Alien: Dilemmas of Contemporary Membership