Statelessness, 1 October 2001
The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons is the primary international instrument adopted to date, to regulate and improve the legal status of stateless persons. The Convention sets the legal framework for the standard treatment of stateless persons. It was adopted to cover, inter alia, those stateless persons who are not refugees and who are not, therefore, covered by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its Protocol. The 1954 Convention contains provisions regarding stateless persons' rights and obligations pertaining to their legal status in the country of residence. The Convention further addresses a variety of matters which have an important effect on day-to-day life such as gainful employment, public education, public relief, labour legislation and social security. In ensuring that such basic rights and needs are met, the Convention provides the individual with stability and improves the quality of life of the stateless person. This, in turn, can prove to be of advantage to the State in which stateless persons live, since such persons can then contribute to society, enhancing national solidarity and stability. Moreover, the potential for migration or displacement of large population groups decreases, thus contributing to regional stability and peaceful co-existence.
In Article 1 of the Convention, the definition of a stateless person is set out: "For the purpose of this Convention, the term 'stateless person' means a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law".
Article 3 of the Convention on non-discrimination states that "The contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to stateless persons without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin".
In Article 28 the issue of travel documents for stateless persons is addressed. An individual recognised as a stateless person under the terms of the Convention should be issued an identity and travel document by the Contracting State.
Article 31 states that stateless persons are not to be expelled save on grounds of national security or public order. Expulsions are, in principle, subject to due process of law. The Final Act of the Convention indicates that non-refoulement in relation to danger of persecution is a generally accepted principle. The drafters, therefore, did not feel it necessary to enshrine this in the articles of a Convention geared toward regulating the status of de jure stateless persons.
Article 32 of the Convention regulates the issue of naturalisation. The Contracting State shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of stateless persons. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalisation proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings.
The Final Act of the Convention recommends that each Contracting State, when it recognises as valid the reasons for which a person has renounced the protection of the State of which he is a national, consider sympathetically the possibility of according to the person the treatment which the convention accords to stateless persons. This recommendation was included on behalf of de facto stateless persons who, technically, still held a nationality but did not receive any of the benefits generally associated with nationality, such as national protection.