Legal briefing: Statelessness and the prohibition on discrimination against Romani communities

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Briefing

This legal briefing analyses the principle of non-discrimination and its impact on the prevention and reduction of statelessness among Romani communities in Europe.

This legal briefing was originally published in April 2023 and updated in June 2024.

There are many widely recognised causes of statelessness including gender or race discrimination in nationality laws, State succession, lack of documentation, poor administrative procedures, conflicts in citizenship laws and the inheritance of statelessness, but a closer look at each of these reveals that discrimination often plays a role.  Nationality laws may be written or (more often in Europe) implemented in such a way as to exclude certain groups or make it more difficult for them to acquire or prove a nationality.

As a result of this, 75% of the world’s stateless populations belong to ethnic, racial, religious, or linguistic minority groups,  and Roma are among Europe’s most marginalised ethnic minorities which is also significantly affected by (a risk of) statelessness.  It is crucial that States put in place mechanisms to meaningfully address discrimination, protect stateless people, and prevent statelessness, in line with their international obligations.

Written in collaboration with The AIRE Centre, this legal briefing sets out the international and regional frameworks and jurisprudence on the principle of non-discrimination and States' obligations to prevent and reduce statelessness, particularly as they impact Romani communities in Europe. It also provides an overview of the challenges faces by Roma in Europe, and examples of how some countries have implemented solutions for reducing barriers to acquisition of nationality and birth registration of Roma and other minority groups.

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