An Update on Malta and Statelessness

A big step for Malta in 2019!

Once again, aditus foundation worked closely with the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) to research and compile comparative information on statelessness in Malta in the 2019 Statelessness Index.

One great outcome of our advocacy work is the accession by Malta to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons on 11 December. The 1954 Convention, which now has 94 parties, establishes a framework for the international protection of stateless people and is the most comprehensive codification of their rights. To be stateless is not to be recognised as a citizen by any state under the operation of its law. As a consequence, a stateless person cannot enjoy her fundamental civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights.

As we highlighted before, this is a welcome development in Malta’s approach to protecting people affected by statelessness and comes following the Government’s pledge at the UNHCR High Level Segment on Statelessness in October, as well as our joint advocacy efforts with UNHCR Malta.

Continue Reading

Learning about stateless children


Hi everyone! I hope you are all safe and everything is going well! I am sure we will overcome these difficult days together very soon!

Today’s topic is new for me also, as I luckily got the chance to get acquainted with it through a webinar. The webinar took place on 3 April via Zoom, it was hard to focus due to distractions made by some hackers! However, luckily it was shortly after uploaded on Youtube in a much clearer version…and it is still available!

This blog post is inspired by this webinar. It was about statelessness and done by the European Network for Statelessness. During the webinar, I got an idea of the amount of suffering stateless children experience and how urgently this needs to stop.

Continue Reading

Report: How European countries can stop people without nationality being locked up in limbo

A report published today (4 May) by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) on the use of immigration detention warns that stateless people are often detained for months and even years, without any real prospect of their cases being resolved.

This is because immigration systems do not have appropriate procedures in place to identify those who are left without nationality and to protect stateless people.

The report calls on European governments to reform their immigration and detention systems to comply with their international human rights obligations and end the arbitrary detention of stateless people.

States need to put in place procedures to identify people without nationality so that they don’t end up locked up in limbo.

Chris Nash, Director of the European Network on Statelessness said:

“Across Europe a failure by states to put in place effective systems to identify stateless people leaves them exposed to repeated and prolonged detention.

These men, women and children fall between the cracks, because no country will recognise them as nationals.

This is preventable, and today we are publishing a clear agenda for change which will help end this travesty.”

Angela Li Rosi, Deputy Director of UNHCR Bureau for Europe said:

“Stateless persons across Europe risk serious violations of their right to liberty and security of person.

They can face repeated and prolonged detention not because they committed a crime but because they are not allowed to stay in the country.

They are told they don’t belong anywhere. Their children are invisible, their families do not exist. UNHCR will continue to work with ENS to support States in ending this human suffering in Europe.”

A statement signed by civil society organisations and leading lawyers and academics from over 30 European countries will be sent to governments highlighting that consensus is building in Europe that the current use of immigration detention is unsustainable, harmful, and, in many cases, unlawful.


“The documents I do have tell me I’m of ‘unknown nationality’. Officially I still don’t exist”

Angela is an ethnic Armenian from Azerbaijan. She fled to the Netherlands seeking asylum with her family in her early teens, but they were refused protection. Countless efforts to obtain new travel documents failed and both Armenia and Azerbaijan refused to facilitate their return. Angela was detained in 2012 during an attempt to forcibly remove her family, which had a huge emotional impact on her. A court ruled her detention unlawful and suspended forced return, but this did not end her limbo.

“Why did they hold me for seven years and gave me nothing?”

Anton is a stateless person from the former Soviet Union who was held in immigration detention in Bulgaria from 2005 to 2012. During this time, he was told he would be forcibly removed, but was never given any details about how and when. Anton remained in detention for seven years because the only alternative to detention in Bulgarian law could not be applied as he had no registered address. He was finally released after an intervention by the UN and now lives as an undocumented migrant.

“Detention made my mental health worse. It started when I got into detention. There they do not care if you cry.”

Muhammed is a Sahrawi in his late thirties who came to the UK as a minor. He was refused asylum and has been detained several times for a total of nearly four of the last eighteen years. His statelessness application was refused because he has a past criminal offence. Muhammed suffers from mental health issues. In 2015-2016, he spent fifteen months in detention despite the authorities accepting that he was Sahrawi and therefore had no prospects of removal.

“Immigration detention is far far worse than prison because there is no time limit.”

Okeke is in his thirties and has always lived in the UK. He was probably born there although he has no birth certificate. He believes that his parents are British but he lost contact with them as a teenager after fleeing years of domestic abuse. Okeke has faced a life of destitution and isolation due to his lack of documents and the abuse he suffered as a child. After a criminal conviction for theft, he was sent to immigration detention subject to a deportation order. Despite being classified as a person of ‘unknown nationality’, the UK attempted to deport him to Nigeria on the basis that he has a Nigerian name.


For media enquiries please call ENS Head of Communications Jan Brulc on 07522 525673 or email [email protected]

  • The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) is a civil society alliance with over 100 members in 40 countries. It is committed to ending statelessness and ensuring that the estimated 600,000 people living in Europe without a nationality are protected under international law.
  • ENS has prepared a statement signed by over 65 civil society organisations, academic and leading legal experts working on the issue. The statement will be sent to government representatives and other main stakeholders across Europe to highlight the agenda for change on how to solve the issue of arbitrary detention.
  • ENS is undertaking a 3 year project aimed at better understanding the extent and consequences of the detention of stateless persons in Europe, and advocating for an end to arbitrary detention of stateless people.
  • New report “Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention: An Agenda for Change” will be available on the ENS website from 4 May onwards For embargoed copy please email [email protected]
  • The report launch will take place in Budapest on 4 May as part of a two day pan-regional conference, with contributions by UNHCR Europe Bureau deputy director Angela Li Rosi, Member of the European Parliament Jean Lambert, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Manlio di Stefano and award-winning photographer Greg Constantine. Full agenda available online

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION: “Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention”


On 4-5 May 2017, the European Network on Statelessness will hold a major conference in Budapest to launch a new comparative report as well as to provide a platform for concerted region-wide advocacy aimed at protecting stateless persons from arbitrary detention.

The conference is intended to facilitate the sharing of information among stakeholders from across Europe – including lawyers, NGOs and academics as well as representatives from governments, inter-governmental-organisations, ombudspersons/monitoring bodies and other stakeholders mandated to work on issues related to immigration detention.

aditus foundation is a member of the European Network on Statelessness, having also researched and drafted the report on the risk of arbitrary detention for stateless persons in Malta. Our Director will be attending the conference, moderating one of the workshops.

You can find out more about the event and register online here. Registration deadline is 15 March.

New toolkit launched to help hold European governments to account and prevent arbitrary detention of stateless persons

On 30 November, the European Network on Statelessness launched a new regional toolkit ‘Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention‘ online and at an event in London. The toolkit is intended as a call to action to all stakeholders to help hold government to account by insisting that they comply with their international human rights obligations that would prevent this practice.

The lack of protection on the one hand and the growth of the immigration detention industry on the other have left many persons currently residing in Europe vulnerable to arbitrary detention.

Evidence shows that in many countries holding stateless migrants in detention for long periods – sometimes indefinitely –  is a disturbing trend in Europe. Because there is no country to return the person to, once detained, the detention is likely to be arbitrary, repeated and prolonged leaving people in limbo and exposed to the emotional and psychological stress of lengthy detention.

The failure of immigration regimes to deal with the phenomenon of statelessness, identify stateless persons and ensure they don’t discriminate against them often results in detention. Yet stateless person are seldom recognised as victims of injustice and often are unfairly labelled as refusing to cooperate with the state.

The toolkit ‘Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention‘ is intended as a resource for all those who come into contact with stateless persons – including lawyers, NGOs and stateless detainees themselves, as well as legislators/policy makers and officials or judges responsible for reviewing immigration detention.

Information is categorised by issue and by type of resource/jurisdiction (UN, Council of Europe and EU) – all of which are hyperlinked, along with easy to use checklists for practitioners.

This news item is being shared as part of our participation in this on-going project. More information on the Malta elements can be read here and here.