Statelessness in the European Union (EMN Inform)
Statelessness is a global phenomenon, concerning approximately 3.9 million people worldwide. The estimated number of persons either determined stateless or of undetermined nationality in the European Union plus Norway was 399,283 at the end of 2018. In 2017, there were 2,100 children registered stateless in Europe, a fourfold increase since 2010. And for those individuals recognised as being stateless, adults and children, what does that recognition mean in terms of access to residence, rights, support and travel documents? How is statelessness determined? A new Inform from the European Migration Network reveals the current state of play in the EU Member States and Norway.
At the end of 2019, 25 Member States plus Norway were party to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954 Convention) and 21 Member States were party to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961 Convention). However, the Inform found that the procedures applied to determine whether a person is stateless vary considerably across the different countries: some have established a dedicated administrative procedure whilst others embed the procedure within more general administrative procedures, or apply ad-hoc or judicial procedures.
In the majority of countries studied there is no direct link between the determination of statelessness and the issuing of a specific residence permit. Only a few Member States grant a residence permit to an individual as a consequence of his/her recognition as a stateless person; in the large majority of Member States, recognised stateless persons must apply for a residence permit on other grounds if they wish to regularise their status. In some cases, this can be complicated because recognised stateless persons may not fulfil the necessary criteria (i.e. they do not have the financial means or cannot meet the evidence requirements). Access to the labour market, education and training as well as health care and social support does not depend on the determination of statelessness but on the residence permit. The Inform found that this can place stateless persons who are not able to obtain a residence permit in a legal vacuum in certain Member States.
Most Member States facilitate to some extent access to nationality for children born stateless in their territory. In most Member States the principle of ius soli applies for granting nationality at birth to children born stateless in the country, albeit under certain conditions. Those Member States not applying the principle mostly facilitate the acquisition of nationality via naturalisation at a later stage. However, the Inform found that only half of the Member States have full safeguards in place against statelessness at birth; other Member States’ legislation contains no or partial safeguards, which results in children being born stateless. With the exception of a few Member States, the Inform found that in the main there was no provision for children born en route to the EU, and arriving without a birth certificate, to obtain one or an equivalent document in the country of arrival.
The Inform found that there were no dedicated determination procedures in place for stateless unaccompanied minors. Most Member States with a determination procedure for adults were found to apply it to cases of unaccompanied minors without adapting it to the specific vulnerability of this group; however, in most cases, a guardian was appointed to accompany the minor and in those countries with a dedicated statelessness determination procedure, legal aid is provided. The burden of proof during the procedure remained with the minor, as in the case of adult applicants.