De jure statelessness in the real world: Applying the Prato summary conclusions


Article 1(1) of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, as interpreted in the Summary Conclusions of the Prato Expert Meeting (“Prato Conclusions”), defines an individual as de jure stateless if all states to which he or she has a factual link fail to consider the person as a national. Most stateless populations that the Justice Initiative works with have links with only one state, where they were born and physically reside.1 In accordance with the Prato Conclusions, the Justice Initiative considers these populations to be de jure stateless on the basis that the state in question, acting through its agents responsible for determination of citizenship, immigration status, or documentation of citizenship, at some level of administration, does not consider these resident populations to be citizens. A majority of the world’s stateless people likely fall into this category, as illustrated by the numerous examples set forth in this document.

The Prato Conclusions state, in part:

Whether an individual actually is a national of a state under the operation of its law requires an assessment of the viewpoint of that State. This does not mean that the state must be asked in all cases for its views about whether the individual is its national in the context of statelessness determination procedures.

Rather, in assessing the State’s view it is necessary to identify which of its authorities are competent to establish/confirm nationality for the purposes of Article 1(1). This should be assessed on the basis of national law as well as practice in that State. In this context, a broad reading of “law” is justified, including for example customary rules and practices.

If, after having examined the nationality legislation and practice of States with which an individual enjoys a relevant link (in particular by birth on the territory, descent, marriage or habitual residence) – and/or after having checked as appropriate with those States – the individual concerned is not found to have the nationality of any of those States, then he or she should be considered to satisfy the definition of a stateless person in Article 1(1) of the 1954 Statelessness Convention.2

In order for the Prato Conclusions to be meaningful in practice, the Justice Initiative believes that two principles in particular require focused attention:

a. The precise meaning of “competent authority” in the context of nationality determination must be clearly and broadly defined in order to establish the viewpoint of the state with respect to the legal status of an individual; and

b. Prima facie evidence of the viewpoint of the state may give rise to a presumption of de jure statelessness with respect to either an individual or an entire population.

These points will be further elaborated in the remainder of this Introduction and throughout the case studies that follow.

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