“When you lose all your document, it is as if life stops”.
PARIS, FRANCE – October 21. Yannick Vivet was born in Cameroon in 1979 and grew up there. His Belgian father passed him his Belgian citizenship. He moved to Paris in 2003 and has lived there ever since. He became stateless at the age of 32 because of an administrative error from the Belgian authorities.
His father, a Belgian citizen, was not married to his mother who was a Cameroonian citizen, but initiated the recognition process to pass his nationality to his children. He died before they were recognized as Belgians. Yet, 5 years after his father died, the Belgian Embassy informed Yannick and his two brothers that they were now Belgian citizens. “We grew up with the Belgian nationality without realizing it, at this age you do not really care about nationality, so you just live and grow up as any child”.
In 2011, when one of his brother went to the Belgian Embassy in Paris to renew his passport, he was informed that there had been an administrative error and that he “has no right to be Belgian anymore”. “If there has been a mistake, they [authorities] made it. Why do we need to pay for someone else’s error?”
Before this episode, his brothers had IDs, passports, they were registered to the Embassy and renewed their ID documents several times.
“This is 2011 […] so I am already over 30 years old […] So more than 20 years later, more than 20 years later (!!!) they [authorities] inform me that I am not a Belgian citizen.”
In order to keep their nationality, three brothers have 12 months to lodge an application for the so-called ‘possession d’état’ (de facto enjoyment of citizenship) for the Belgian nationality. To complete the application, they need their birth certificates, which are located in Cameroon. However, the Embassy refuses to give them a travel pass to travel to Cameroon. “We find ourselves in an administrative limbo that we do not understand. We are stuck.” Following repeated difficulties, they finally received their birth certificates, three weeks after the 12 months deadline, which was too late. “We are stunned, because well, when you lose all your documents, it is as if life stops. Especially here, everything you are entitled to do, you will always be asked to provide an ID, a written proof first. This is something tragic in someone’s life”.
When they decided to contact the Cameroonian authorities to apply for the citizenship as they were born there, they were told that Cameroon does not recognize dual citizenship and that automatically renounced their nationality after reaching 18 [because they obtained Belgian citizenship].
“It is very limiting. Morally sometimes we are exhausted to fight, we do not know why and for what we are fighting and why all these misfortunes happen to us”.
Yannick would simply like to have documents allowing him to have a normal life. “Nationality… no nationality, honestly I realized that it is pointless. It is only something that divides and separates people”.
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