What can I do as a frontline refugee practitioner?
The 4 Rs: Recognise, Record, Refer, and Read up!
- Recognise statelessness
Do not assume that everyone has a nationality or that everyone who is stateless knows they are stateless. Be aware that some people may think of ‘nationality’ as their ethnicity or community group, rather than citizenship. When considering whether a person’s detention is or would be lawful, consider whether questions about citizenship and the risk of statelessness have been adequately addressed in screening and/or status determination procedures, or if indications of statelessness were recorded, and explore further if needed. For example:
- Do the authorities of the applicant’s home country or any other country consider them to be a citizen, and do they have a right to return with the same range of rights associated with citizenship?
- Is the applicant part of a group that the government of their country of origin does not recognise as citizens, such as Kurds from Syria or Iraq or bidoon people from Kuwait?
- Is the applicant from a territory that is not recognised by all countries as a State and/or where recognition of statehood does not imply full sovereignty or effective nationality of that State, for example Palestine or Western Sahara?
- Have previous return attempts failed, and does this indicate that the country of potential return does not consider the applicant to be a national?
- Have there been delays or difficulties in acquiring travel or identity documents to allow the applicant’s return, and does this indicate that the country of potential return does not consider the applicant to be a national?
More questions are available here: Identifying Statelessness: Screening questions
- Record statelessness / risk of statelessness
If you identify that a person may be stateless in the context of reception, or if the person claims to be stateless, record this important information on any paperwork relating to this person. If a form does not have fields allowing you to accurately record this information, make a note somewhere on the form about it, so that there is a record, and inform the person of this and that it may be important in future. Also keep copies of any relevant documents in your file so that they can be accessed later if needed.
Where standard forms or checklists do not contain a dedicated section to record this information, ask the relevant person within your organisation to amend these to include ways to accurately record (risk of) statelessness on all relevant forms.
In the refugee status determination context, it must be determined whether the applicant is stateless and what this means for them. If they are stateless, this should be clearly recorded in all relevant documentation, so that upon being granted refugee status, their statelessness is acknowledged and the person is referred to adequate procedures to determine statelessness (if available). This will be vital to ensure that the person will not face removal attempts later on that could lead to arbitrary detention, even if at some future point most refugees can return home.
- Refer people to get expert advice, support, and information
Identify organisations that specialise in statelessness and nationality in your country of work and see if they can help. Some of our members may be able to assist. Download and use our guide/poster for refugee response actors and our short guide for refugees and asylum seekers. In some cases, determining whether a person is stateless requires specialist knowledge that is not available in the public domain, and an expert should be instructed to prepare a report confirming whether the person is stateless.
- Read up: about statelessness and detention. There’s some more information below, and lots more on our websites (links below). Watch this short video about statelessness and detention (No One Will Notice). Learn more about statelessness and detention here: