Malta and the UN Conventions on Statelessness

Malta and the 1954 and 1964 Conventions on Statelessness

Dr. Jean-Philippe Chetcuti co-authored with Marina Magri | 26 Nov 2022

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Today at least ten million people around the world are stateless.  Stateless persons need to fight for basic human rights that the most of us take for granted. 

The plight of stateless persons in Malta

In most cases, stateless persons are excluded from birth and throughout their lifetime, from a legal identity, access to education, health care, marriage, and job opportunities and even the dignity of an official burial and a death certificate when they die. In several cases, the curse of statelessness is passed on to their children, who then pass it on to the next generation.

Stateless people find themselves stateless through no fault of their own-and in most cases their statelessness could be resolved through minor changes in existing laws. UNHCR has an international mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness.

2014 - Mapping Statelessness in Malta

In 2014, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Office in Malta launched a report on statelessness in Malta on the occasion of the Global “I Belong” campaign, aimed at ending the problem of Statelessness within ten years.  The UNHCR Office in Malta’s report, entitled ‘Mapping Statelessness in Malta‘, is the first comprehensive study on this topic carried out in Malta and seeks to encourage the country’s accession to the two statelessness conventions along with their due implementation.

Although Malta is not found to host a high number of individuals who are stateless, the report establishes that there are people who are or may be stateless or of undetermined nationality. Despite the limited size of the stateless population in Malta, it is important to recognise that each stateless person faces particular hardships that should not be disregarded.  On this basis, the Report makes the following recommendations:

·       Malta should consider establishing an effective statelessness determination procedure which would ensure the identification of stateless persons in its territory

·       Malta should ensure that the rights of stateless persons are upheld in the country

·       Malta should ensure that there is awareness about statelessness among relevant Government institutions that may encounter stateless persons, such as immigration and asylum authorities, citizenship authorities and civil registries among others

2019 - Malta’s accession to the 1954 UN Convention on Statelessness

Since 11th December 2019, Malta’s accession to the 1954 Convention is subject to reservations to:

·       Article 11 (regarding stateless seamen),

·       Article 14 (regarding artistic rights and industrial property) and

·       Article 32 (regarding facilitated naturalisation) prevent these provisions from having any legal effect.

It is worth noting that pursuant to its reservation to Article 32, Malta precludes stateless people in Malta from a facilitated route to resolving their statelessness through naturalisation.

2021 – Calls for Implementation of Convention, Intro of SDP in Malta

In December 2021, Maltese NGO aditus foundation, member of the European Network on Statelessness, published a briefing note on statelessness aimed at urging Malta to follow through on its international commitment to protect stateless people.  The briefing noted that to date, Malta had not taken the legislative or administrative steps necessary to fulfil its new Convention obligations.
As a result of this omission, stateless people in Malta remain unidentified and at risk of violations of their fundamental rights. Examples include the rights to education, employment, freedom from discrimination, housing, personal liberty, family and private life.
Furthermore, without a formal Statelessness Determination Procedure (SDP) mandated to determine statelessness, Malta is unable to gain the necessary insights into the nature and size of its stateless population. So, it is prevented from taking the steps that could remedy and prevent statelessness.

Drawing from the Statelessness Index, the briefing note puts forward recommendations for the implementation of an SDP and how Malta can most effectively protect, respect and fulfil rights accorded to stateless people under the 1954 Convention.  As at December 2021, aditus states that discussions were still ongoing with the Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security, and Law Enforcement on Malta’s SDP. The aim of the Statelessness Briefing Note is to urge the Government to establish an SDP that is in line with good practice, accessible, fair and efficient, and which leads to a dedicated status with clear rights attached to it.

The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

The 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons provides the definition of a “stateless person” and the foundation of the international legal framework to address statelessness.

The 1954 Statelessness Convention is designed to ensure that stateless people enjoy a minimum set of human rights. It establishes the legal definition of a stateless person as someone who is

“not recognized as a national by any state under the operation of its law.”

This means that a stateless person is someone who does not have the nationality of any country. The 1954 Convention also establishes minimum standards of treatment for stateless people in respect to a number of rights. These include, but are not limited to, the right to education, employment and housing. Importantly, the 1954 Convention also guarantees stateless people a right to identity, travel documents and administrative assistance.

There were 83 States party to the 1954 Convention in November 2014 when teams at UNHCR launched the Campaign to End Statelessness in 10 Years.

The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness aims to prevent statelessness and reduce it over time. It establishes an international framework to ensure the right of every person to a nationality. It requires that states establish safeguards in their nationality laws to prevent statelessness at birth and later in life. Perhaps the most important provision of the convention establishes that children are to acquire the nationality of the country in which they are born if they do not acquire any other nationality. It also sets out important safeguards to prevent statelessness due to loss or renunciation of nationality and state succession. The convention also sets out the very limited situations in which states can deprive a person of his or her nationality, even if this would leave them stateless.

There were 61 states party to the 1961 Convention in November 2014 when teams at UNHCR launched the Campaign to End Statelessness in 10 Years.

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