More detail on the issue and additional resources
Failure to identify statelessness can cause many problems. During asylum registration and screening procedures, stateless refugees may be wrongly ‘assigned’ a presumed nationality by officials based on their country of origin or language. Women and children may be assumed to have the same nationality as their husband/father, which can mean statelessness among children or spouses is hidden and left unaddressed. In other cases, stateless people are imputed to have the nationality of their country of origin, for example a stateless Syrian is registered as ‘Syrian’ or a bidoon as ‘Kuwaiti’ or ‘Iraqi’. This can also cause serious problems: for example, if the situation in the home country improves, refugees may be expected (and required) to return. If they are stateless but have been wrongly attributed a nationality, they may not be able to return, and may end up without any protective status, residence permit and/or detained in the host country. If statelessness is missed or nationality status mis-recorded at this early stage, it can be very difficult to correct later.
There may be good reasons why stateless people do not identify their own statelessness. Some stateless refugees may not be aware they are stateless or of the relevance of their lack of nationality to their international protection claim, or they may fear telling the authorities they are stateless because of past experiences of discrimination or persecution. Authorities should be understanding about this and offer multiple non-intimidating opportunities for asylum applicants to discuss potential statelessness, with a view to offering appropriate protection if needed.
Sometimes people are recorded as having ‘unknown nationality’ or as ‘stateless’, but then nothing is done to refer them to a procedure to have their nationality status properly determined. This can cause significant problems later.