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Migration and Home Affairs
News article27 January 2020

EMN Inform: Statelessness in the European Union

How is statelessness determined and what does it mean in terms of access to residence, rights, support and travel documents? The European Migration Network has published an inform on statelessness in the EU Member States and Norway.

In the European Union and Norway, the estimated number of persons either determined stateless or of undetermined nationality was 399 283 at the end of 2018. There were 2,100 children registered stateless in Europe in 2017, a fourfold increase since 2010*.

The inform found that:

No dedicated determination procedures were in place for stateless unaccompanied minors. Most Member States with a determination procedure for adults were found to apply it to cases of unaccompanied minors without adapting it to the specific vulnerability of this group; however, in most cases, a guardian was appointed to accompany the minor. Legal aid is provided in countries with a dedicated statelessness determination procedure.

  • Procedures to determine whether a person is stateless vary considerably across the different countries: some have established a dedicated administrative procedure whilst others embed the procedure within more general procedures, or apply ad-hoc or judicial procedures;
  • Only a few Member States grant a residence permit to an individual as a consequence of his/her recognition as a stateless person; in the large majority of Member States, recognised stateless persons must apply for a residence permit on other grounds if they wish to regularise their status. This can be complicated because recognised stateless persons may not fulfil the necessary criteria. Access to the labour market, education and training as well as health care and social support depends on the residence permit, which can place stateless persons in a legal vacuum in certain Member States;
  • Most Member States facilitate access to nationality for children born stateless in their territory. The principle of ius soli generally applies for granting nationality at birth to children born stateless in the country, albeit under certain conditions. Those Member States not applying the principle mostly facilitate the acquisition of nationality via naturalisation at a later stage;
  • Only half of the Member States have full safeguards in place against statelessness at birth; other Member States’ legislation contains no or partial safeguards, which results in children being born stateless. In the main there was no provision for children born en route to the EU, and arriving without a birth certificate, to obtain one or an equivalent document in the country of arrival;

At the end of 2019, 25 Member States plus Norway were party to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and 21 Member States were party to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Click here to download the Inform

*UNHCR’s Global Trends - Forced Displacement in 2018


Publication date
27 January 2020