Statelessness

A stateless person is someone who is not considered a national by any state under the operation of its law. The government is working on a new bill, which will allow stateless individuals without documents proving their 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 Personal Records Database can:

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

Establishing statelessness

The government 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 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 ‘no-fault residence permit’.

Unknown nationality

The designation ‘unknown nationality’ in the Personal Records Database is not the same as statelessness. Most migrants with this designation do actually have a nationality, 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 4,000 people are now registered as stateless in the Personal Records Database. They make up only a small number of the 80,000 individuals with the designation ‘unknown nationality’. The registered group of stateless individuals includes Moluccans, Roma, people of Surinamese origin, migrants from the former Soviet Union and stateless Palestinians from Syria. As a group, the stateless Moluccans are a special case: under the Moluccans (Status) Act, they are treated in the same way as Dutch citizens.