A Teleological and Child-Sensitive Interpretation of a Country of Former Habitual Residence for Stateless Children Born Outside Their Parents’ Country of Nationality or Former Habitual Residence
The notion of a country of former habitual residence — as the functional equivalent of a country of nationality for stateless individuals and the reference point for the ‘being persecuted’ inquiry in art 1A(2) of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees — is an ill fit for stateless children born outside the country of nationality or former habitual residence of their parent(s). On a plain, ordinary reading of the definition, stateless children born in the country of refuge have neither a nationality nor a former habitual residence and fall outside the ambit of the refugee definition. In a similar fashion, stateless children born prior to arrival in the country of refuge (but not in the country of nationality or designated country of former habitual residence of their parent(s)) are unable to establish the country of reference element, as read with all other indicia of refugeehood. In the context of concurrent family claims, this predicament exposes an obvious inequity of access to refugee status and a consequent risk of refoulement to serious harm, as such children may face return to the country of nationality or former habitual residence of their parent(s). While the dominant tide of jurisprudence supports a literal interpretation of the notion, Michelle Foster and Hélène Lambert have identified a purposive pathway, better aligned with the humanitarian scope of the refugee definition. For such applicants, this interpretation allows for the determination of country of reference in combination with forward-looking considerations on their returnability and risk of persecution upon return. This article endorses such an interpretation and comprehensively charts a child-sensitive approach to applying the criteria for refugee status (historically formulated from an adult-oriented perspective), by exploring what child-specific interests might better inform the notion in the context of the individualised refugee assessment of concurrent family claims.