Nationality is a legal bond between the State and the individual. The right to a nationality is enshrined in several international legal instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the child. Whilst it is not directly enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5), the European Convention on Nationality (ETS No. 166) explicitly guarantees the right to a nationality.
According to recent UNHCR statistics, over 600,000 individuals who are “not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law” currently live in the European space covered by the 47 Council of Europe member States. The issues on statelessness are complex and may arise in various situations.
Bearing in mind the Council of Europe Action Plan on protecting refugee and migrant children for 2017-2019 and to seek how best the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) can provide its expertise and contribute to the on-going efforts undertaken by member States and simultaneously complement the work currently carried out by other European and international stakeholders in the field, such as the UNHCR, a working group composed of CDCJ members and key stakeholders reviewed, at an ad hoc meeting held in June 2019, the protocols and procedures used by member States (i) to determine, in cases where it is uncertain, the nationality of recently arrived migrants (in particular, children) as well as (ii) to resolve cases of statelessness, and identified notably the gaps and new challenges in this field.
The outcome of their work was taken into account in an detailed analysis of current practices and challenges regarding the avoidance and reduction of statelessness in Europe. CDCJ considered this analysis at its 94th plenary meeting (13-15 November 2019). As a follow-up, the CDCJ agreed on the activities to be carried out during the next two years:
- an international conference on statelessness to raise awareness and promote implementation of Council of Europe standards in this field and, subsequently,
- a series of technical meetings on targeted statelessness issues.
Background information - Main relevant international instruments
Council of Europe instruments
Committee of Ministers
- European Convention on Nationality - ETS No.166 (see Art. 1-13), Explanatory report (see para. 16-93);
- Convention on the avoidance of statelessness in relation to State succession - STE No 200;
- Recommendation No R(84)21on the acquisition of nationality of the host country;
- Recommendation No R(99)18 on the avoidance and the reduction of statelessness;
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)13 and explanatory memorandum on the nationality of children (Recommendation: see para 1-9 and 23, Explanatory memorandum: see para 1-25 and 57).
- Resolution 1989 (2014) / Recommendation 2042 (2014) “Access to nationality and the effective implementation of the European Convention on Nationality”;
- Resolution 2099 (2016) “the need to eradicate statelessness of children”.
United Nations Instruments
- UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, 28 September 1954, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 360, p. 117 (See Art. 32);
- UN General Assembly, Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, 30 August 1961, Treaty Series, vol. 989, p. 175 (see Art. 1-4);
- UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989 - entry into force 2 September 1990 (see Article 7).
- UNHCR, Handbook on stateless persons (2014 - under the 1954 Convention relating to the status of stateless persons) (see para 1-168);
- UNCHR, Guidelines on statelessness No. 4, Ensuring every child’s right to acquire a nationality through Articles 1-4 of the 1961 Convention on the reduction of statelessness;
- Expert Meeting convened by UNHCR - Interpreting the 1961 Statelessness Convention and Avoiding statelessness resulting from Loss and Deprivation of Nationality ("Tunis Conclusions"), March 2014;
- UNHCR, Good Practices Paper - Action 2: Ensuring that no child is born stateless, 20 March 2017;
- UNHCR, Good Practices Paper – Action 6: Establishing Statelessness Determination Procedures to Protect Stateless Persons, 11 July 2016;
- UNHCR, Good Practices Paper - Action 7: Ensuring birth registration for the prevention of statelessness, November 2017;
- UNHCR, Good Practices Paper – Action 9: Acceding to the UN Statelessness Conventions, 28 April 2015;
- UNHCR, Global Action Plan to End Statelessness (2014-2019), 4 November 2014.
Presentations and discussions during the Ad hoc Meeting on Statelessness Determination Procedures (June 2019)
CDCJ 94th Plenary meeting
At its 94th plenary meeting in Strasbourg (13-15 November 2019), CDCJ discussed the current practices and challenges regarding the avoidance and reduction of statelessness in Europe in the company of Professor Doctor Gerard-René de Groot (Maastricht University -The Netherlands , and University of...