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UNHCR’s Mandate and Activities to Address Statelessness in Europe

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Abstract 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The year was marked by stepped-up, unprecedented activity, culminating in a ministerial-level conference organised by UNHCR, which proved to be a watershed for international efforts on statelessness. The anniversary was also a sobering reminder, however. Fifty years after the adoption of the Convention, statelessness remains a significant problem in Europe and around the world. This article takes stock of statelessness in Europe, understood here as the countries which belong to the Council of Europe, by looking at the four key components of UNHCR’s mandate: identification, prevention and reduction of statelessness and the protection of stateless persons. It does so by looking at some of the key activities undertaken with regard to each of these areas in turn, and ends with a brief analysis of where things stand following the anniversary of 1961 Convention.

1. FN11) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 20 October 1995, Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness and the Protection of Stateless Persons. UNHCR No. 78 (XLVI) 1995, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae68c443f.html.
2. FN22) UN General Assembly, 9 February 1996, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: resolution adopted by the General Assembly, A/RES/50/152, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3b00f31d24.html.
3. FN33) Ibid., Paragraph 14.
4. FN44) Ibid., Paragraph 15.
5. FN55) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 6 October 2006, Conclusion on Identification, Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness and Protection of Stateless Persons, No. 106 (LVII) – 2006, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/453497302.html.
6. FN66) Ibid., Paragraph (c).
7. FN77) Ibid., Paragraph (q).
8. FN88) Ibid., Paragraph (r).
9. FN99) Ibid., Paragraph (v).
10. FN1010) UN General Assembly, 25 January 2007, Resolution 61/137 Adopted by the UN General Assembly: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, A/RES/61/137, paragraph 4, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/45fa902d2.html.
11. FN1111) UN General Assembly Resolution 3274 (XXIV) of 10 December 1974.
12. FN1212) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, March 2010. UNHCR Action to Address Statelessness: A Strategy Note, paragraph 69, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4b9e0c3d2.html.
13. FN1313) As at 1 May 2012. Up-to-date information on the status of ratification/accessions to the 1954 and 1961 Conventions is available online at http://www.refworld.org/statelessness.
14. FN1414) René de Groot, May 2011, Preventing Statelessness among Children: Interpreting Articles 1–4 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and Relevant International Human Rights Norms (Background Paper prepared for the UNHCR/Open Society Justice Initiative Expert Meeting held in Dakar, Senegal, 23–24 May 2011).
15. FN1515) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 6 October 2006. Conclusion on Identification, Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness and Protection of Stateless Persons, No. 106 (LVII) – 2006, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/453497302.html, paragraph (s).
16. FN1616) Ibid., paragraph (x).
17. FN1717) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, May 2010, Expert Meeting – The Concept of Stateless Persons under International Law (Summary Conclusions), available online at http://www.unhcr.org/ refworld/docid/4ca1ae002.html.
18. FN1818) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 20 February 2012, Guidelines on Statelessness No. 1: The definition of “Stateless Person” in Article 1(1) of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, HCR/GS/12/01, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4f4371b82.html.
19. FN1919) This issue is explored in some detail in the background paper prepared for the meeting by Hugh Massey, UNHCR and De Facto Statelessness, April 2010, LPPR/2010/01, available online at http://www. unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4bbf387d2.html.
20. FN2020) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, December 2010, Expert Meeting – Statelessness Determination Procedures and the Status of Stateless Persons (Summary Conclusions), available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4d9022762.html.
21. FN2121) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 5 April 2012, Guidelines on Statelessness No. 2: Procedures for Determining whether an Individual is a Stateless Person, HCR/GS/12/02, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4f7dafb52.html.
22. FN2222) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, September 2011, Interpreting the 1961 Statelessness Convention and Preventing Statelessness among Children: Summary Conclusions, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4e8423a72.html.
23. FN2323) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 22 November 2011. Mapping Statelessness in The United Kingdom. Note however, that this is not necessarily representative of the overall population because the method used was based on chain referrals (snowball technique) and produces a bias.
24. FN2424) See above, note 16, paragraphs (c) and (d).
25. FN2525) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, June 2011, UNHCR Global Trends 2010, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4e01b00e2.html.
26. FN2626) UNHCR (2004) Statistical Yearbook, p. 59.
27. FN2727) These procedures are designed to determine whether individuals are stateless for the purpose of establishing the standards of treatment to which they are entitled. For more information see UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 5 April 2012, Guidelines on Statelessness No. 2: Procedures for Determining whether an Individual is a Stateless Person, HCR/GS/12/02, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4f7dafb52.html.
28. FN2828) See for example, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, November 2011, Mapping Statelessness in the Netherlands, UNHCR, Section 3.2.
29. FN2929) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 13 May 2008, Measuring Statelessness through Population Census. Note by the Secretariat of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, file://localhost/ECE:CES:AC.6:2008:SP:5, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4a705e 4b2.html.
30. FN3030) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 22 November 2011, Mapping Statelessness in The United Kingdom.
31. FN3131) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, November 2011, Mapping Statelessness in the Netherlands.
32. FN3232) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mapping Statelessness in Belgium, (forthcoming).
33. FN3333) Information on the Ministerial Meeting and pledging process as well as texts of pledges are available online at http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4d22fd496.html.
34. FN3434) UNHCR, Statistical Yearbook 2010, p. 31.
35. FN3535) Such an obligation can also be derived from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child but it is not explicitly set out therein. A list (albeit one which is not completely up to date), of the States referred to here is available in Annex V, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, March 2010, UNHCR Action to Address Statelessness: A Strategy Note, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4b9e0c3d2.html.
36. FN3636) Additional information on the importance of accession to the 1961 Convention is set out in UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Preventing and Reducing Statelessness: The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, September 2010, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4cad866e2.html.
37. FN3737) Gaps in the legislation of Monaco were addressed at the end of 2011.
38. FN3838) Pledges were made by Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine, though several of these already have nationality laws which are fully compliant with the Convention. Bulgaria and Moldova pledged to accede to both Conventions and deposited their instruments of accession with the United Nations on 22 March and 19 April, respectively.
39. FN3939) Armenia, Georgia and Montenegro all made pledges in this area.
40. FN4040) Denmark had an application procedure in place pursuant to article 1 of the 1961 Convention for individuals born in the territory. A number of applications from stateless persons who satisfied the conditions for nationality were not resolved. See European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, ECRI Report on Denmark (Fourth Monitoring Cycle), 22 May 2012, paragraph 13. Among many other media articles, see BBC, “Danish immigration minister Hornbech fired over scandal”, available online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12674360.
41. FN4141) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 9 February 2010, Birth Registration: A Topic Proposed for an Executive Committee Conclusion on International Protection, EC/61/SC/CRP.5, Paragraph 3.
42. FN4242) See for example UN High Commissioner for Refugees, May 2009, Civil Registration and the Prevention of Statelessness: a Survey of Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians in Montenegro, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/4b71228e9.html; UNHCR, UNHCR urges the government to amend legislation, 29 August 2011, http://rs.one.un.org/news.php?id=203.
43. FN4343) The principal outcome document of the meeting is the Zagreb Declaration.
44. FN4444) This is outlined in UN High Commissioner for Refugees, March 2010. UNHCR Action to Address Statelessness: A Strategy Note, paragraphs 41–46, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4b9e0c3d2.html.
45. FN4545) Examples are Sri Lanka (2003) with respect to residence in the territory and the sui generis approach adopted by Nepal (2006) with respect to birth in the territory.
46. FN4646) Article 6(4)(g).
47. FN4747) ECN Article 6(3).
48. FN4848) The practical value of this provision is explained in detail in Nehemiah Robinson (1997) Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. Its History and Interpretation, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4785f03d2.html.
49. FN4949) Those which pledged to accede are Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Portugal, Turkey and Ukraine. Of these, three have already implemented their pledges: Georgia acceded on December 2011, Bulgaria on 22 March 2012 and Moldova on 19 April 2012.
50. FN5050) Those which pledged to accede are Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Portugal, Turkey and Ukraine. Of these, three have already implemented their pledges: Georgia acceded on December 2011, Bulgaria on 22 March 2012 and Moldovia on 19 April 2012.
51. FN5151) See for example UN High Commissioner for Refugees, October 2003, The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons: Implementation within the European Union Member States and Recommendations for Harmonisation, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/ 415c3cfb4.html. For more recent examples, see the Netherland and UK mapping studies cited previously.
52. FN5252) Belgium, Georgia, Hungary and Moldova.
53. FN5353) For example, Austria, France, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland all raised questions relating to nationality and statelessness during the 2010 review of Kuwait.
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/content/journals/10.1163/15718166-12342007
2012-01-01
2016-02-10

Affiliations: 1: Statelessness Unit, Division of International Protection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Case Postale 2500 CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt Switzerland

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