On 15th January 2014 UNHCR Malta held a Technical Roundtable meeting in order to present and discuss a study it prepared on the current situation of stateless persons in Malta. Having been interviewed by UNHCR Malta in its national mapping exercise, aditus foundation attended as an interested observer, including through its role as a member of the European Network on Statelessness.
The meeting started with a brief introduction about the study on stateless persons by Jon Hoisaeter, UNHCR Malta Representative. Inge Sturkenboom, Protection Officer on Statelessness at UNHCR’s Bureau for Europe gave a brief presentation about the international campaign UNHCR launched in 2010 in order to raise awareness on a global and national levels. The campaign is primarily aimed to deepen the understanding of the situation on stateless persons, and to encourage States to ratify the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
The meeting was attended by a variety of stakeholders, including: the Commissioner for Children, the Refugee Commissioner, Jesuit Refugee Service, aditus foundation, the International Organisation for Migration, the National Statistics Office and several other governmental and non-governmental entities.
What is the current situation in Malta regarding stateless persons? UNHCR reported that despite some general awareness of the phenomenon, the overall situation is not too well-known and relevant statistics and data are limited. Malta also lacks a procedure for determining statelessness as well as a rights protection framework for stateless persons. According to the National Statistics Office (NSO) data from 2008-2010, it is estimated that there were 24 stateless persons in that time-frame. However, during the meeting it was noted that there are some problems regarding the procedures adopted by the NSO to determine these figures and that criteria for determination of statelessness were not too clear. Hence the available data may not be accurate or comprehensive. UNHCR expressed its hope that the national mapping study would contribute to filling these data and procedural gaps.
The meeting delved into discussions on relevant legal considerations. Malta has already signed several international instruments directly or indirectly requiring Malta to include stateless persons within its national legal framework. These include the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1930 Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws, the 1957 Convention on the Nationality of Married Women and 1997 European Convention on Nationality. Yet despite the fact that these instruments oblige Malta to protect stateless persons in its legal framework, the two main statelessness conventions have not been signed by Malta.
Whereas there was some discussion focused on the possibility of refugee children being stateless, it was equally highlighted that the possible catchment population would include other categories of migrants. In our work with labour migrants and migrants coming to Malta as spouses of Maltese nationals, aditus foundation regularly comes across individual cases where migration laws or policies could potentially lead to immigrants becoming stateless upon arrival, or following stay in Malta.
The main recommendation emerging from the meeting was for Malta to sign and ratify the 1954 Statelessness Convention since Malta is one of four EU countries that has not yet signed this, together with Cyprus, Estonia and Poland. In 2012 the EU pledged that all Member States would ratify the 1954 Convention so action is clearly needed by Malta on this. During the meeting it was also highlighted that Malta needs to explore modalities for the establishment of a statelessness determination procedure. aditus foundation remains committed to continuing its advocacy for this to happen, including through its participation in the European Network on Statelessness Campaign to Protect Stateless Persons in Europe which is lobbying on this issue across the region.
UNHCR informed the meeting that their study will be published at the end of February so watch that space!