|Legal status of persons|
A de facto stateless person is someone who is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or, for valid reasons, unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country. This can be a result of persecution or a consequence of lack of diplomatic relations between the state of nationality and the state of residence.
Some de jure stateless persons are also refugees, although not all asylum seekers are de jure stateless and not all de jure stateless persons are refugees. Many stateless persons have never crossed an international border.
- 1 Stateless person
- 2 History
- 3 Cases of statelessness
- 4 Organizations
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
A stateless person is someone who is "not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law". In other words, a stateless person has no citizenship or nationality. As a matter of international law, citizenship and nationality are congruous, although there may be differences between the two concepts in domestic law.
The causes of statelessness around the world are numerous.
Conflict of nationality laws can be another cause of statelessness. Nationality is usually acquired through one of two modes: jus soli or jus sanguinis. Jus soli denotes a regime by which nationality is acquired through birth on the territory of the state. This is common in the Americas. Jus sanguinis on the other hand is a regime by which nationality is acquired from birth through descent – usually through a parent who is a national. Today, many states apply a combination of the two systems.
Although many states allow for acquisition of nationality through parental descent irrespective of where the child is born, many still do not allow their female citizens to confer nationality to their children. This may result in statelessness where the father is stateless, unknown, or otherwise unable to confer nationality. There have however been recent changes in favor of gender neutrality in nationality laws in some parts of the world. Moreover, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women prohibits sex discrimination in conferral of nationality.
An important measure to avoid statelessness at birth is to provide nationality to children born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless. This norm is stipulated in the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. It also appears in several regional human rights treaties, including the American Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention on Nationality, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. This norm is implicit in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In some cases, statelessness is a consequence of state succession. Recent history has shown[according to whom?] that some people have become stateless when their state of nationality ceased to exist, or when the territory on which they live came under the control of another state. This was the case when the Soviet Union disintegrated, and also in the cases of Yugoslavia and Ethiopia.
In rare cases, individuals may become stateless when renouncing their citizenship (e.g. "World Citizen" Garry Davis). People who subscribe to voluntaryist or agorist beliefs may desire or seek statelessness. However, many states do not allow citizens to renounce their nationality unless they acquire another one. However, consular officials are unlikely to be familiar with all citizenship laws of all countries, so there may still be situations where renunciation leads to statelessness.
A final cause of statelessness are non-state territories. As per the definition of a stateless person, only states can have nationals. As a result, people who are "citizens" of non-state territories are stateless. This includes, for instance, occupied territories where statehood has ceased to exist or never emerged in the first place. The Palestinian Territories is one example, but also Western Sahara, Northern Cyprus may be considered as such, depending on the interpretation of statehood and sovereignty.
While statelessness has existed for several centuries, the international community has only been concerned with its eradication since the middle of the twentieth century. In 1954 the United Nations adopted the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which provides a framework for protection of stateless persons. Seven years later, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness was adopted, which contains provisions to prevent and reduce statelessness.
In addition, a range of regional and international human rights treaties guarantee a right to nationality, with special protections for certain groups including stateless persons. For examples, states bound by the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are obligated to ensure that every child acquires a nationality. The Convention requires states to implement this provision in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless, and in a manner that is in the best interests of the child.
Not holding proof of nationality – or being "undocumented" – is not the same as being stateless. However, lack of key identity documents such as a birth certificate can lead to a risk of statelessness. Many millions of people live their entire lives without documents, without their nationality ever being questioned. Two factors are of particular importance: a. is the nationality in question acquired automatically or through some form of registration; and, b. has the person ever been denied documents on the basis that he or she is not a national. If nationality is acquired automatically, then the person is a national regardless of documentation status (although in practice the person may face problems accessing certain rights and services – not because he or she is stateless but because he or she is undocumented). If registration is required then the person is not a national until that has been completed. As a practical matter, the longer a person is undocumented, the greater the likelihood that he or she will end up in a situation where no state recognizes him or her as a national.
As per the definition of a stateless person, whether someone is stateless is ultimately a matter of the viewpoint of the state with respect to the individual or a group of people. In some cases the state makes its view clear and explicit. In other cases the viewpoint of the states is harder to discern. In those cases one may need to rely on prima facie evidence of the view of the state, which in turn may give rise to a presumption of statelessness.
Before World War II
The status of slaves and inhabitants of conquered territories in the Greco-Roman world of antiquity is in some ways analogous to contemporary statelessness. In antiquity, "statelessness" could be seen to affect captive and subject populations denied full citizenship (see Roman Citizen) including those enslaved—for instance, conquered populations excluded from Roman citizenship such as the Gauls immediately following the Gallic Wars, or Israelites under Babylonian captivity.
Some characteristics of statelessness could be observed amongst apostates and slaves in Islamic society, the former being persons shunned for rejecting their religious birth identity, the latter being persons separated from that identity and subsumed into an underclass role.
Statelessness used to characterize the existence of Roma People whose traditional nomadic lifestyles meant that they traveled across lands claimed by others.
The Office international Nansen pour les réfugiés was an international organization of the League of Nations in charge of refugees from 1930 to 1939. It received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938. Their Nansen passports, designed in 1922 by founder Fridtjof Nansen, were internationally recognized identity cards issued to stateless refugees. In 1942 they were honored by governments in 52 countries.
After World War II
The United Nations (UN) was set up in 1945, right after the end of World War II. From the very start, the UN had to deal with the mass atrocities of the war, including the huge refugee populations across Europe.
To address the nationality and legal status issues of refugees in Europe, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN requested the Secretary-General to carry out a study of statelessness in 1948. The ECOSOC appointed a Committee on Refugees and Stateless Persons to draft a convention that would address the problems faced by refugees and stateless persons, including their legal status. A treaty on refugees was prepared with a draft protocol addressing the status of stateless persons. However, as International Refugee Organization – the predecessor to the UN High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) – was in the process of being dissolved, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted without inclusion of the Protocol addressing statelessness.
Three years prior to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted. UDHR provides both for a right to asylum (article 14) and a right to nationality (article 15). The UDHR also expressly prohibited arbitrary deprivation of nationality, something which had affected many of the war-time refugees.
In 1949, the International Law Commission included the topic "Nationality, including statelessness" in its list of topics of international law provisionally selected for codification. At the behest of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1950, that item was given priority.
The International Law Commission at its fifth session in 1953 produced both a Draft Convention on the Elimination of Future Statelessness, and a Draft Convention on the Reduction of Future Statelessness. ECOSOC approved both drafts.
Following these developments in both human rights law and refugee law, the UN eventually adopted in 1954 the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
The 1954 Statelessness Status Convention provided a definition of a stateless person (which has since become part of customary international law, according to the International Law Commission), and sets out a number of rights that stateless persons should enjoy. The Statelessness Status Convention thus became the basis for an international protection regime for stateless persons.
Seven years later – only one year after the 1954 Convention entered into force – the UN adopted another convention on statelessness, namely the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Statelessness since 1961
The Statelessness Reduction Convention was adopted in 1961 and entered into force in 1975. It provides a number of standards regarding acquisition and loss of nationality (including automatic loss, renunciation, and deprivation of nationality). It also requests the UN to establish a mandate for the reduction of statelessness.
On 13 December 1975, the 1961 Convention entered into force. To date, the number of states parties is relatively low. As of June 2011, only 38 states had ratified the Convention (compared to 66 states parties to the 1954 Statelessness Status Convention).
Starting in 1994, the UNHCR Executive Committee (ExCom) and the UNGA requested UNHCR to broaden its activities concerning statelessness to include all states. In 1996 UNHCR was asked by the UNGA to actively promote accessions to the 1954 and the 1961 conventions, as well as to provide relevant technical and advisory services pertaining to the preparation and implementation of nationality legislation to interested states.
An internal evaluation released in 2001 suggested that UNHCR had done little to exercise its mandate on statelessness. Only two individuals were tasked with overseeing work in that area at UNHCR headquarters, though some field officers had been trained to address the issue. The evaluation also noted that there was no dedicated budget line. Concerned organisations such as the Open Society Justice Initiative and Refugees International have advocated for more human and financial resources to be dedicated to statelessness within UNHCR.
In 2004, ExCom invited UNHCR to pay particular attention to situations of protracted statelessness and explore with states measures that would ameliorate the situations and bring them to an end.
In 2006, ExCom provided UNHCR with more specific guidance on how to implement its mandate on statelessness. The Conclusion on the Identification, Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness and the Protection of Stateless Persons requires UNHCR to work with governments, other UN agencies, and civil society to address this problem. UNHCR's activities are currently categorized as identification, prevention, reduction, and protection.
UNHCR has achieved some success in launching campaigns to prevent and reduce statelessness among formerly deported peoples in Crimea, Ukraine (Armenians, Crimean Tatars, Germans, and Greeks who were deported en masse at the close of World War II). Another success has been the naturalization of Tajik refugees in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the participation in citizenship campaigns enabling 300,000 Estate Tamils to acquire citizenship of Sri Lanka. UNHCR also assisted the Czech Republic to overcome the large number of stateless persons created when it separated from Slovakia.
At the beginning of 2006 the UNHCR claimed to have 'on its books' 2.4 million stateless persons, and made an estimate of 11 million as the size of the stateless population worldwide. In 2011, the estimation increased to 12 million. UNHCR figures do not include stateless refugees and stateless Palestinians under UNRWA's mandate.
While the two conventions on statelessness constitute the primary international framework for protection of stateless persons and reduction of statelessness, there are also regional instruments of great importance. The 1997 European Convention on Nationality, for example, has contributed to protecting the rights of stateless persons, and provides standards for reduction of statelessness in the Council of Europe region. That document underlines the need of every person to have a nationality, and seeks to clarify the rights and responsibilities of states in ensuring individual access to a nationality.
Statelessness of some magnitude exists in every country of the world. Today, some of the largest populations of stateless persons are found in Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Estonia, Iraq, India, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Thailand.
Cases of statelessness
Some cases of statelessness have been brought to wide public attention in airports, due to their status as ports of entry. A famous case was that of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an expelled Iranian who lived in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in France for approximately eighteen years after he was denied entry to the country, but was allowed to remain in the airport. Tombés du ciel is based on his story while The Terminal is a fictional story that has parallels to his experiences. Another case is Zahra Kamalfar, of Iran, who lived in the Sheremetyevo International Airport for many months before getting refugee status in Canada.
During change of citizenship
Countries that restrict cases of multiple nationality often require immigrants who apply for naturalisation to obtain official documentation from their countries of origin proving that they are no longer citizens. In some countries, such as Japan and South Korea, such documentation does not have to be provided immediately, but only within a certain period after naturalisation in the new country. In others, including Denmark, Germany, and Taiwan, such documentation must be provided before the official granting of the new citizenship. This means that during the period between the renunciation/cancellation of the prior citizenship, and the granting of the new citizenship by naturalisation, the applicant for naturalisation may be officially stateless. In two cases in Taiwan, Pakistani immigrants applied for naturalisation and renounced their Pakistani citizenship. In the interim, the decisions to permit their naturalisation as citizens of Taiwan were reversed, meaning they were left stateless.
There is a large number of stateless permanent residents in Brunei. Most of these residents have lived on Brunei soil for generations, but Brunei nationality is determined by applying the policy of jus sanguinis; the right to hold the nationality is only by blood ties. However, the government of Brunei has made obtaining citizenship possible, albeit difficult, for stateless people who inhabited Brunei for many generations. The requirements to attain Brunei citizenship include passing rigorous tests in Malay culture, customs and language.
Stateless permanent residents of Brunei are given an International Certificate of Identity, which allows them to travel overseas. The majority of Brunei's Chinese and Indians are permanent residents. A holder of an International Certificate of Identity can enter Germany and Hungary visa-free for a maximum of 90 days within a 180 day period. In the case of Germany, in theory, in order to benefit from the visa exemption, the ICI must be issued under the terms of the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and contain an authorisation to return to Brunei which has a sufficiently long period of validity. However, because Brunei is not a signatory to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, holders of an ICI do not qualify for the visa exemption to Germany. Holders of an ICI can still benefit from the visa exemption to Hungary, since the Hungarian Government does not require the ICI to be issued under the terms of the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
Brunei is a signatory to the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child in which Principle 3 states:
"The child shall be entitled from his birth to a name and a nationality."
However, Brunei does not currently follow the guidelines of the said Convention. There is a recent announcement from the Sultan of Brunei regarding plans to expedite the process of citizenship process for Stateless/Permanent residence status in Brunei to sit for citizenship exams.
Bill C-37 came into effect on 17 April 2009 and changed the rules for foreign-born Canadian citizenship. Individuals born outside Canada can now become Canadian citizens by descent only if at least one of their parents was either a native-born citizen or a foreign-born but naturalized citizen of Canada. The new law limits citizenship by descent to only one generation born outside Canada. All individuals born outside Canada but within one generation of the native-born or naturalized citizen parent are automatically recognized as Canadian citizens. The second generation born abroad, however, are not citizens of Canada at birth. Such individuals might even be stateless if they have no claim to any other citizenship.
Since the passage of Bill C-37, this situation has already occurred at least twice. In one situation, Rachel Chandler was born in China to a father who is a Canadian citizen born in Libya and a mother who is a Chinese citizen. Due to the nationality laws of Canada and China, she was not eligible for citizenship of either country and was apparently born stateless. However, because Rachel Chandler's paternal grandfather was born in Ireland, she was entitled to Irish citizenship, and now holds an Irish passport. Chloé Goldring was born in Belgium, to a Canadian father born in Bermuda and an Algerian mother. Due to the nationality laws of Belgium, Canada and Algeria, she was not eligible for citizenship of any of those countries and was born stateless. Chloé Goldring is now a Canadian citizen.
Under Bill C-37, the term "native-born" is construed strictly—children born outside of Canada to Canadian government employees working there, including diplomats and Canadian Forces personnel, are considered to be foreign-born. Ironically, the bill was intended to resolve the status of so-called "Lost Canadians"—people who considered themselves Canadians, with undeniable connections to the country, but had either lost or never been granted citizenship due to the vagaries of the country's previous nationality law.
There are an estimated 800,000 Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Children of Haitian immigrants are often stateless and denied services. In a 2013 news story, Reuters reported, "The September 23 court ruling retroactively denies Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who does not have at least one parent of Dominican blood, under a constitutional clause declaring all others to be either in the country illegally or "in transit."
Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code (Law 3370 of 1955) provided that: “A person of non-Greek ethnic origin leaving Greece without the intention of returning may be declared as having lost Greek citizenship. This also applies to a person of non-Greek ethnic origin born and domiciled abroad. His minor children living abroad may be declared as having lost Greek citizenship if both their parents or the surviving parent have lost it as well. The Minister of the Interior decides on these matters with the concurring opinion of the Citizenship Council.” Article 19 was abolished in 1998, but without any provision for restoring citizenship to people who had lost it. At this time Minister of the Interior Alekos Papadopoulos stated that, since its introduction in 1955, 60,000 Greek citizens had lost their citizenship in application of that article. Many of these people adopted the nationality of another country after they moved there; an estimated 300–1000 people remain stateless in Greece (primarily minorities in Thrace, some of whom had never settled abroad) and other former Greek citizens are stateless in other countries (an estimated 1400 in Turkey and an unknown number elsewhere).
Stateless individuals in Greece have had difficulty receiving social services like health care and education and —until December 1997—were denied the protection of the 1954 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which Greece ratified in 1975. As a result of pressure from NGOs and minority deputies and organizations, around one hundred ethnic Turks made stateless under Article 19 received identity documents from Greek authorities in accordance with the 1954 U.N. Convention. In August 1998, then Foreign Minister Theodore Pangalos stated that within a year most or all of the stateless living in Greece would be offered Greek citizenship; this promise was repeated in subsequent months by then Alternate and Deputy Foreign Ministers George Papandreou and Yannos Kranidiotis. However, to date the government has taken no steps to carry out this promise.
India and Pakistan
As of 2012, India and Pakistan were holding several hundred prisoners of each other's country for minor violations like trespass or visa overstay, often with accusations of espionage attached. Some of these include cases where Pakistan and India both deny citizenship to these people, leaving them stateless. The BBC reported in 2012 on one such case of Mohammed Idrees, a man who lived in Pakistan and was held under Indian police control for approximately 13 years for overstaying his 15 day visa by 2–3 days after seeing his ill parents in 1999. Much of the 13 years was spent in prison waiting for a hearing, and more time was spent homeless or living with generous families. Both states denied him citizenship. The BBC linked these problems to the political atmosphere caused by the Kashmir conflict. The Indian People's Union for Civil Liberties told the BBC it had worked on hundreds of cases with similar features, calling his individual case a "violation of all human rights, national and international laws, everybody has a right to a nation". The Indian Human Rights Law Network told the BBC that the cause was "officials in the home department", and slow courts, and called the case a "miscarriage of justice, a shocking case".
When Japan lost control over Korea in 1945, those Koreans who remained in Japan received Chōsen-seki, a designation of nationality which did not actually grant them citizenship. Roughly half of those Koreans later got South Korean citizenship, but the other half, who affiliated with North Korea which is unrecognized by Japan, are legally stateless in Japan. Practically speaking they mostly hold North Korean citizenship (albeit meaningless in their country of residence) and may repatriate there, while they are treated as foreign nationals and given the full privileges entitled to that class in Japanese law. As of 2010 Chōsen-seki holders are banned from South Korea.
Bedoun means "without" in Arabic, indicating that this group, between 80,000 and 100,000, has no nationality. In 2011, the first bedoun demonstrations for nationality rights took place on February 18. In 2011, Kuwaiti courts ruled that bedoun are allowed to be issued birth, marriage and death certificates. Prior to that time, bedoun were impeded in seeking education and employment by the lack of such documentation.
The Kuwaiti government has recently given stateless people many rights and worked on improving their overall standards of living and incorporation in the Kuwaiti society. these rights include: free medical treatment, free public education, employment, issuance of birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates,  issuance of inheritance & guardianship documentation, issuance of driver’s licenses, providing basic supermarket supplies (subsidies) and government care for those with special needs and handicaps
Even though Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were issued a Palestinian passport according to the Oslo Accords, many countries (such as Germany) still do not recognize their citizenship.
As a matter of international law, only states can have nationals and the nationality status of many Palestinians therefore depends on whether or not Palestine is a state: some countries recognize Palestinian statehood, but others do not.
After Israel annexed East Jerusalem, Palestinians living there received, along with Israeli permanent residency status, the right to apply for automatic citizenship. Shortly after the offer was made in 1967, it was rejected by Arab leaders. Almost all Jerusalemite Palestinians have shied away from citizenship for ideological reasons. Between 1967 and 2007 only 12,000 of these 250,000 Palestinians applied for Israeli citizenship. Those who do not are therefore generally stateless.
Abbas Shiblak estimates that over half of the Palestinian people in the world are stateless.
According to the 2013 census (conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics) between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and other Palestinian territories, there are 11.5 million Palestinians.
In 1994, Juan Mari Brás, a Puerto Rican lawyer and political historian, renounced his US citizenship before a consular agent in the US Embassy of Venezuela. In December 1995, his loss nationality of was confirmed by the US Department of State: Mari Bras was no longer a US citizen. That same month, he requested that the Puerto Rican State Department furnish him with proof of his Puerto Rican citizenship. The request involved more than just a bureaucratic formality, therefore testing the self-determination of Puerto Rico by becoming the first Puerto Rican citizen that was not also an American citizen.
Mari Brás claimed that as a Puerto Rican national born and raised in Puerto Rico, he was clearly a Puerto Rican citizen and therefore had every right to continue to reside, work and, most importantly, vote in Puerto Rico. The State Department responded promptly, claiming that Puerto Rican citizenship does not exist independent of American citizenship, and in 1998 rescinded their recognition of his renunciation of citizenship. The State Department's response to Mari Brás stated that Puerto Rican citizenship currently exists only as an equivalent to residency: Puerto Rican citizens are US citizens who reside in Puerto Rico. The Secretary of State[clarification needed] agreed, claiming that after a year of residence on the island, any US citizen can gain Puerto Rican citizenship. On October 25, 2006, he became the first person to receive a Puerto Rican citizenship certificate from the Puerto Rico State Department.[clarification needed]
Cases of statelessness have arisen due to different classes in British nationality law which led to situations where people were considered British subjects but not nationals, or where people held a British passport without right of abode in the United Kingdom. People who have no other citizenship in any other country, and simultaneously lacked a right to reside in the United Kingdom are possibly stateless. Examples of this include so-called British Protected Persons, who are not considered British nationals. British nationals (irrespective of the class of nationality) who reside abroad but do not enjoy protection by the British government are de facto stateless.
Many situations where people were at risk of statelessness due to the different classes of British nationality were resolved after 30 April 2003, when the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 came into force. As a result of this Act, the United Kingdom gave most nationals of residual British nationalities, without any other citizenship the right to register as full British citizens. However, cases still exist where people have not been able or willing to register as citizens.[specify]
The United States, which is not a signatory to the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons nor the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, is one of a small number of countries which will allow its citizens to renounce their citizenship even if they do not hold any other. The Foreign Affairs Manual instructs State Department employees to make it clear to Americans who will become stateless after renunciation that they may face extreme difficulties (including deportation back to the United States) following their renunciation, but instructs employees to afford such persons their right to give up citizenship. Former Americans who have voluntarily made themselves stateless as a form of political protest include Garry Davis, Thomas Jolley, Joel Slater, and most recently Mike Gogulski.
International Stateless Persons Organisation
In March 2012, the International Stateless Persons Organisation (ISPO), an International non-governmental organization (INGO) was founded by HH Prince Dr. Fernando Macolor Cruz, tribal prince and instructor of History and Political Science at the Palawan State University in the Philippines. It aims to provide institutional representation to stateless persons throughout the world through a network of volunteer human rights law practitioners who act as Country Representatives.
- List of people who have lived at airports
- Refugee law
- Stateless nation
- Uncontacted people
- World Passport
- The Terminal
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Statelessness.|
- International law: treaties and case law
- Intergovernmental organizations:
- UNHCR page on prevention and reduction of statelessness and protection of stateless persons – background information, tools and news From UNHCR website
-  UNHCR Map (21 August 2006) Stateless Persons and Populations at Risk of Statelessness
- International NGOs
- Statelessness on the website of the Open Society Foundations
- Statelessness on the website of Refugees International
- Website of the International Observatory on Statelessness a clearinghouse for NGOs, academics, advocacy groups and policy-makers working on issues of statelessness
- World Service Authority The World Service Authority issues World Passports mainly to refugees and stateless persons; refugees in camps are entitled to free World Passports
- Academic Institutions
- Specific states
- British nationality – provisions for reducing statelessness
- United States IRS Form 8898 (Renouncing citizenship).
- Documentary Film on Stateless person