Stateless people can face significant additional barriers to integration. International law requires states to make every effort to facilitate the integration and naturalisation of stateless people on their territory. As a consequence of experiences of exclusion and discrimination in their countries of origin, stateless people can face challenges when navigating administrative systems and seeking to access services, including education or employment for example. In the absence of a Stateless Status in many European countries, stateless people who are not also recognised as Refugees (or holding another form of residence or protection status) are at risk of being denied the rights due to them under the 1954 Convention.
Some stateless people may have been systematically excluded from the formal education system or labour market in their countries of origin their whole lives because of their statelessness. This can mean that for some, language classes or vocational training offered to refugees in Europe, could be the first time they have ever accessed formal education. They may have low levels of literacy, and little formal work experience. This can be a significant disadvantage when seeking to access employment and training opportunities in Europe.
In some cases, service providers may request types of documentation that stateless people are unable to produce as a condition for access to certain services. For example, proof of previous educational attainment or birth certificates may be required for access to certain qualifications, or prospective employers might require evidence of formal work experience. Many systems and services have inflexible requirements and little knowledge about the specific situation of stateless people, so may not be willing to use appropriate discretion or waive or exempt stateless people from certain requirements that are impossible for them to meet. The kinds of documentary proof required for procedures such as acquiring a driving license, marrying, acquiring property, registering the birth of a child, or naturalisation can all be very difficult for stateless people to produce.
In some countries, tailored integration support and services are provided to refugees, but may be unavailable to stateless people who are not also recognised as refugees. Even where stateless refugees do have access to support services, there may be little awareness among providers of the specific circumstances and challenges faced by stateless people. In countries that do not have a statelessness determination procedure (SDP) and stateless status, stateless people who are not recognised as refugees (and don’t hold any other form of residence or protection status) will often not be able to access the minimum rights due to them under the 1954 Convention at all (for example, to work, education, and social assistance).
At all levels this [lack of awareness of statelessness] problem continues. When you’re recognised [as a refugee] you should go to other authorities, such as education, integration, and there, again and again you are asked questions and should prove that as a stateless person you have rights.
(Representative of refugee-led organisation interviewed in Greece in April 2018)
‘I was unable to study at all in Myanmar… In Iran, I lived in a small village where I tried to go to school and learn to write but was not allowed because I didn’t have any papers… Here I have begun to learn and to go to classes. I take two classes a week… and I am really happy about this. It is the first time I have been able to learn like this.’
(Stateless Rohingya man from Myanmar, interviewed in Greece in March 2018)
What more can be done?
- Increase awareness of service providers so that there is a better understanding of the specific circumstances of stateless people and what documentation they may (or may not) have access to.
- Flexibility should be built into systems to protect stateless people from discrimination where they cannot meet eligibility requirements for certain services because of their statelessness.
- Tailored access to integration services for stateless people should be developed to ensure informed support to address challenges they face in accessing their rights, including to naturalisation, and civil registration.
- Statelessness determination procedures and a stateless status (with a right of residence) should be introduced in law in all countries to ensure States can grant stateless people who are not also refugees (or hold another form of residence/protection status) access to the rights due to them under the 1954 Convention.
Initiative led by:
The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) is a civil society alliance of over 170 non-governmental organisations, academics and individual experts in 41 countries, committed to addressing statelessness in Europe. ENS believes that everyone has the right to a nationality and that those who lack nationality altogether – stateless persons – are entitled to full protection of their human rights.