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Handbook on Protection of Stateless Persons: Under the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

By: United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR)

The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons lies at the heart of the international regime for protection of stateless persons. It establishes the universal definition of a “stateless person” and provides a core set of principles for their treatment. The Convention’s framework is as relevant today as it was at the time of the treaty’s adoption and has been complemented by developments in international human rights law. Whilst the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness provides a comprehensive set of tools for eradicating statelessness, the 1954 Convention ensures that those who find themselves stateless need not be consigned to a life without dignity and security. In the Convention’s 60th anniversary year, UNHCR is pleased to issue this Handbook.

At the time of publication, 80 States are party to the 1954 Convention, with numerous accessions in the past three years prompted by UNHCR’s Statelessness Campaign. The increased focus on statelessness can also be seen in the rise in the number of countries establishing statelessness determination procedures. Whilst such procedures may only be appropriate for the minority of the world’s stateless persons who are in a migratory situation, they are nevertheless critical, providing a route to a status consistent with the standards both of the 1954 Convention and international human rights law. A different approach is called for in the case of stateless persons who are in their own country, recognising their profound connection with that State through, for example, birth or longstanding residence. States are increasingly aware of the benefits, not just to the individuals concerned, but for the stability and cohesiveness of their societies generally, of undertaking law and policy reforms to grant nationality to such persons.

UNHCR issues this Handbook pursuant to its mandate responsibilities to address statelessness. These responsibilities were initially limited to stateless persons who were refugees as set out in paragraph 6 (A) (II) of the UNHCR Statute and Article 1 (A) (2) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This mandate has since been widened by a series of General Assembly Resolutions, in particular Resolutions 50/152 of 1995 and 61/137 of 2006 entrusting UNHCR with responsibility for stateless persons generally. UNHCR’s responsibilities extend to the identification, prevention and reduction of statelessness, and the protection of stateless persons.