A staatloos (stateless) person is someone who is not considered a citizen by any State under the operation of its law. The Government of the Netherlands is working on a new bill, which will allow stateless individuals without documents proving their staatloosheid  (statelessness) to have their status officially determined by a court. People whose statelessness has been officially established have more rights.

Established statelessness means more rights

Individuals who are registered as stateless in the Basisregistratie Personen – BRP (Personal Records Database) can:

  • apply for a travel document;
  • apply for Dutch citizenship through a special procedure. After 3 years’ legal residence they can apply for Dutch citizenship at a reduced fee.

Establishing statelessness

The Government of the Netherlands is introducing a procedure for determining statelessness. The procedure is meant for individuals who claim to be stateless, but do not have any documents to prove it. They can ask a court to officially determine their status. If the court determines they are stateless, they will acquire the rights attached to statelessness.

Stateless individuals in the Netherlands illegally

Stateless individuals who are in the Netherlands illegally cannot obtain a verblijfsvergunning (residence permit) simply because they are stateless. Statelessness does not automatically entitle a migrant to a residence permit. Like other migrants, stateless individuals can only obtain a residence permit if they fulfil the conditions. If no country is prepared to repatriate them, they may be eligible for a special permit, a buitenschuldvergunning (no-fault residence permit).

Unknown citizenship

The designation nationaliteit onbekend (unknown citizenship) in the BRP is not the same as  statelessness. Most migrants with this designation do actually hold citizenship of a country, but do not have any documents to prove it. Most do hold a residence permit.

Registered stateless people in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands more than 12,000 people are now registered as "stateless" in the BRP. They make up only a small number of the 40,000 individuals with the designation "unknown citizenship" in the BRP. The registered group of stateless individuals includes Moluccans, people from Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. As a group, the stateless Moluccans are a special case: under the law: Wet betreffende de positie van Molukkers, they are treated in the same way as Dutch citizens.