New book looks at the implementation of the 1954 Convention across the EU

Dr. Katia Bianchini - Researcher at the Max Planck Institute
/ 4 mins read

Until the launch of the ENS Statelessness INDEX last month, there was very little information available about how implementation of the 1954 Convention relating to the status of stateless persons happens at the national level across Europe in particular regarding the determination of statelessness, the grant of legal status, and access to basic economic and social rights.

My new book Protecting Stateless Persons. The Implementation of the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons Across EU States aims to make a contribution to addressing this knowledge gap by offering an in-depth comparative study of legislation, case-law and decision-making concerning the treatment of stateless persons in ten EU States. Based on both empirical and legal data, and uncovering frameworks that are little known, the book explores three different national approaches of protection for stateless persons:

  • systems that have adopted specific legislation and guidance for the implementation of the 1954 Convention;
  • systems that have adopted specific legislation but lack clear guidelines;
  • and those that have not adopted any particular legislation.

The States under review are the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Hungary, Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The book surveys a spectrum of issues related to the 1954 Convention: determination of statelessness at the administrative stage, from basic aspects of structure and access, to matters of assessment of statelessness; right of appeal against rejected applications; the interpretation and application of the definition of ‘stateless person’; type of status granted; grant of a basic set of rights attached to the recognition of status, including the right to travel documents and access to facilitated naturalisation.

Main findings

The analysis reveals wide variations among the procedures, applicants’ treatment and status granted across the selected frameworks. Yet, while findings allow to conclude that stateless persons are more likely to receive better protection in States that have adopted specific implementing legislation, collected data also carve out challenges and gaps in each system under review.

In addition, the book shows how the definition of ‘stateless person’ is subject to multiple, sometimes contradictory, meanings and practices. It finds that stateless persons are often excluded from official registration as stateless persons, especially where no specific implementing measures of the 1954 Convention are in place. However, problems also exist in States with specific determination procedures as outcomes of decisions are often unsatisfactory.

Importantly, the book draws attention to the critical lack of registration/recognition as a stateless person that prevents access to rights and benefits of the 1954 Convention. In this regard, the study identifies the granting of a clear legal status as the best solution for affected people.

Against this, the book concludes that statelessness determination procedures are a vital precursor to access protection. It points to basic components that should be part of any determination framework. Moreover, the analysis closes with three other major recommendations for the reduction of statelessness:

  • the adoption of norms to clarify the meaning of the definition ‘stateless person’ in line with international law;
  • granting stateless status to recognised stateless persons;
  • and facilitate stateless persons’ acquisition of a nationality through naturalisation.  

While this study mainly deals with  legal responses by those States that have ratified the 1954 Convention, it is also concerned with the implementation of human rights treaties in general. In this regard, it confirms theories indicating that States’ responses are complicated by the different systems of incorporation of international law into the national legal systems. At the same time, research goes beyond the traditional approaches which only focus on law by underscoring the crucial role of  decision-makers as far as the application of human rights. Eventually, the examination highlights the importance of both the legal infrastructure and political will in determining the effectiveness of human rights.

The books contributes to the debate on the protection of stateless persons by providing a greater understanding of how and to what extent the 1954 Convention is implemented, and carves out the main factors impacting its effectiveness on domestic level. It is helpful for identifying ‘good practices’, areas to improve within existing systems and key challenges in light of the applicants’ special vulnerability. It may also guide future practical developments for the protection of stateless persons.

 Protecting Stateless Persons. The Implementation of the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons Across EU States, is available to order here.

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