Statelessness in the European Union
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Statelessness in the European Union
Statelessness is a global issue that affects more than 12 million people around the world. Based on the United Nations (UN) estimates, the Council of Europe (CoE) has identified the number of stateless persons in Europe to be at least 680,000. Despite the above figures, statelessness remains a relatively hidden phenomenon in the European Union (EU). Without citizenship, stateless people find themselves in a legal limbo belonging to no country and being refused most of the fundamental social, civil or economic rights.
The main purpose of this research paper is to evaluate the current situation of statelessness within the European Union and the existing statelessness determination procedures available, meaning to find out to which extent Member States of the EU are able to function and act under a common framework that will help to prevent issues of statelessness. The general theme of the research derives from the main research question:
To what extent is the European Union able to develop an effective common EU policy framework for International protection to prevent Statelessness?
Therefore, a qualitative desk research was conducted and several sub-questions have been drawn that have the objective to help with the formulation of the content, by way of challenging different topics and in the same time by focussing on distinctive theories. This established the basis of the literature review and leaded to the empirical evidence that portrayed the current situation of statelessness and the relevant legislation around the issue within the EU.
The current International legal framework directing statelessness and state determination on citizenship consists of several principles and rules, belonging to various branches of international law, which a Member State must comply with. This International framework is needed since: they outline appropriate solutions, they establish mechanisms for the avoidance of cases of statelessness, and they assist Member States to address gaps in legislative frameworks. However, even though there are sufficient international instruments that converge over the issue, they still lack monitoring mechanisms and there is no assigned monitoring body to ensure that states comply with the given obligations.
So far, within the EU framework no specific regulation on statelessness exists. The EU refers in some of its EU legislation on immigration and asylum to stateless persons. However, within the scope of that legislation, its involvement in addressing the problem of statelessness has been limited. The fact that the ECHR, one of the first human right instruments to give effect and binding force, and the Human Rights Charter do not even address the issue is a real shortcoming of the Human Rights law within the EU.
With regards to the future, there is a need for EU-regulation in order to oblige Member States to facilitate access to nationality and reduce statelessness. At present the EU does not have the explicit entitlement to adopt legislation or common measures that treats statelessness as a specific issue. This can only be done when fundamental principles, such as the division of competence and the doctrine of state sovereignty are changed in EU-laws. While a common EU-Framework to protect stateless persons in the EU law and policies seems unrealistic, the EU can still play an active role in improving the protection of stateless persons in Member States.
It is highly recommended for the EU to encourage Member States to create more reliable data in their statistics on stateless persons and develop relevant common guidelines. With regards to the International Conventions on Statelessness the EU should encourage Member States that have not yet ratified the 1954 and 1961 statelessness-related UN conventions and cooperate with the UNHCR. Finally, the EU should strive to implement the issue of statelessness within its own structure and relevant EU institutions such as dealing with fundamental right issues, national minorities or asylum and this should be integrated into the standard programme of these EU bodies.