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Statelessness

Our mission is to give people with no nationality a chance to have their life back.

What is statelessness?

The human costs of statelessness are harrowing. Stateless people are left at risk of destitution, homelessness, exploitation and indefinite immigration detention. 

The 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons defines a stateless person as “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. 

In practice this means that many stateless persons are left without legal residence, consular protection, or the right to return to their country of origin. No Government takes responsibility for their protection. For those who have fallen through the cracks in this way, the consequences are serious. 

If you are stateless, you do not have the nationality of any country. It means that you have no home and no place you belong. No country will look after you, you cannot vote in any country, and no foreign embassy will extend its help to protect your rights. You often have nowhere you can legally reside. You will be forbidden from accessing many of the services citizens often take for granted - like healthcare and social welfare. You often cannot legally cross international borders because you lack identity and/or travel documents. In short, it means you cannot live your life freely or safely. 

How do we work on statelessness?

This is one of the most complex areas of international protection and we are determined to tackle it.

Asylum Aid, alongside the Liverpool Law Clinic, is at the forefront of work on statelessness in the UK. We offer free legal advice and representation for applications to remain in the UK as a stateless person under the Immigration Rules, Part 14.

To provide this service, we work in partnership with the City Law Group, consisting of 13 city law partners, who generously provide Pro Bono legal support to take on statelessness cases to ensure people affected by statelessness are able to achieve settled status in the UK.

We seek to test new legal advice models that enable us to provide specialist advice and representation to stateless persons who are currently unable to receive legal aid.

Through this frontline legal representation, Asylum Aid is able to gather information on Home Office decision-making practices. Enabling us to drive policy and practice change through the Home Office building on the constructive channels of communication developed during our long history of work in this area. We are members of the Home Office Project Board tasked with advising on the design of the new procedure and making it safer for vulnerable people. 

We work to ensure that stateless people receive the protection they need. Working concurrently alongside our legal work, we develop accessible legal and policy tools and we provide training to lawyers and non-legal specialists to increase the number of individuals who can get the support they need to take Statelessness claims forward.

We are hugely grateful to the members of the City Law Group who make this work possible: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Ashurst, Cooley, Dentons, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster, O'Melveny & Myers, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Shearman & Sterling, Skadden and White & Case. 

Fadi’s Story

Fadi was born in Libya to a Palestinian father and Libyan mother. His father died when he was a child and he continued to live with his mother in the home in which she had always lived. 

As Fadi reached his teenage years a senior military official tried to evict them, but his mother refused to leave their home. When his mother died two years later, Fadi returned from work one day to find his home occupied. He was threatened with death if he tried to raise any official complaint. Fadi moved in with his employer, who ran a local garage. After many months of working, Fadi realised that his employer was holding back his wages and using him as free labour. Fadi felt that, as someone of Palestinian descent in Libya, he had nowhere to turn. He had no ID document or passport and was thus effectively a non-citizen in Libya but he also could not go to Palestine, where he had never been and with which country he had no connection. Fadi decided to flee Libya and travelled to UK to claim asylum. His claim was refused and Fadi was given notice of removal. Since no removals to Libya were at that time taking place from the UK, no attempt was made to remove him. For eight years Fadi’s situation remained unresolved. He had no right to work, or to claim benefits or to study. He was on occasions offered emergency accommodation but this was repeatedly removed, the UK authorities maintaining that he should return to his home country. Fadi eventually met someone and they formed a long-lasting relationship, but, because of his lack of status in the UK, they could not marry.

Fadi was referred to Asylum Aid’s statelessness project and expert evidence was obtained to show that someone of his father’s Palestinian background would not have been recognised as a citizen in Libya, nor would his children. Fadi’s experience was consistent with that of many stateless Palestinians living illegally in Libya. Asylum Aid also established that Libyan nationality law did not allow a woman alone to pass on her nationality to her child. Fadi was therefore recognised as stateless and given five years leave to remain as a stateless person, with the option to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of those five years.  Fadi was able to marry and now lives with his wife and works in Wales.