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.


Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention – Malta Report


A new report published today by the European Network on Statelessness and aditus foundation on the use of detention of stateless persons in Malta, reveals that the widespread use of administrative detention has a severe impact on stateless persons. The absence of procedures to identify and recognize statelessness results in detention that in many cases is not in conformity with Malta’s human rights obligations.

Furthermore, stateless persons are unable to receive any form of legal and social protection since their status remains largely unidentified. The report is nonetheless optimistic that up-coming changes to Malta’s detention regime, as also possible steps towards the 1954 Stateless Convention, could result in dramatic changes to the way stateless persons are treated.

Neil Falzon, director of aditus foundation said:

The report confirms the urgency for Malta to revise its detention regime. It also stresses that the absence of any procedure to identify stateless persons results, in many cases, in their unlawful detention and their lack of social and legal protection. Nonetheless, despite the shortcomings identified in the report, we are looking forward to Malta’s announced plans to revise its detention regime and to consider approaching the 1954 Convention.

The report is the most recent in a series of publications forming part of a Europe wide research and advocacy effort by the European Network on Statelessness to investigate the law, policy and practice related to the detention of stateless persons. Detention of stateless persons is a concerning trend across Europe and is happening despite the fact that protection against arbitrary detention is well entrenched under international and regional law.

ENS is committed to raising awareness and finding durable solutions and is, in addition to country research reports, publishing a regional toolkit for practitioners on protecting stateless persons from arbitrary detention on 30 November at an event in London.

[su_box title=”Report Recommendations” style=”soft” box_color=”#2ab4f1″ title_color=”#ffffff”]The report outlines a number of key recommendations and calls on the Government to:

  • Accede to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons of 1954;
  • Establish a procedure to identify and recognize stateless persons, building on experiences and lessons learnt by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner;
  • Shift from automatic detention towards a system based on individual assessments, in line with Malta’s human rights obligations. For stateless persons, this is particularly relevant in the context of pre-removal detention;
  • Detention should be used as a last resort, after all less coercive remedies have been explored; Detained persons should have access to an effective remedy to challenge the legality of their detention;
  • Organize training sessions on statelessness, for public authorities engaging with this issue;
  • Conduct an internal assessment of scenarios whereby Maltese law or practice gives rise to or heightens the risk of statelessness;
  • Ensure access to protection for stateless persons.[/su_box]

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

This new report shows that we are dealing with a small-scale issue which can be addressed quickly and effectively by establishing a dedicated statelessness determination procedure. As a first step, Malta should follow the example of other European countries and accede to the two UN conventions on Stateless Persons and on the Reduction of Statelessness, which would provide the legal framework for reducing statelessness and protecting those who find themselves stateless. We are optimistic that the Government will continue working with civil society organisations and engage in a constructive discussion to find ways to improve legislation and policy through the recommendations made in this report.

[su_box title=”Download the Report” style=”soft” box_color=”#2ab4f1″ title_color=”#ffffff”]This publication is being launched in the context of the on-going project entitled ‘Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention’.

The full report (.pdf) can be downloaded here, and a summary version is available here. [/su_box]


For media enquiries please call aditus foundation director Neil Falzon on +356 99892191 or email

or ENS Head of Communications Jan Brulc on +44 77 26472797 or email

  • aditus foundation is a Maltese human rights organization working to monitor, report and act on access to human rights in Malta. Its main activities involve advocating, through research, campaigns and public awareness, for laws and policies that fulfil Malta international and regional human rights obligations, whilst also offering legal information advice through its Pro Bono Unit.
  • The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) is a civil society alliance with 103 members in 39 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 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 protecting stateless persons from arbitrary detention through the application of regional and international standards. The project will deliver a series of country reports (including the report on Malta published today) investigating the law, policy and practice related to the detention of stateless persons in selected European countries and its impact on stateless persons and those who are ‘unreturnable’ and therefore often at risk of statelessness.
  • The project has developed a regional toolkit for practitioners on protecting stateless persons from arbitrary detention – which sets out regional and international standards that states must comply with. The toolkit, along with the full version of this and other country reports, will be available on the ENS website at

Open Letter Regarding Public Statements on Statelessness (aditus foundation & JRS Malta)


Home Affairs and National security Minister Carmelo Abela. Photo Credit: The Malta Independent.

Hon. Minister,

We are distressed by your public comments of 13 July regarding Malta’s hesitation in accessing the 1954 and 1961 international conventions relating to statelessness. Your comments, as reported, expressed a fear that a statelessness determination procedure could result in an administrative burden on your Ministry, in view of the possible hundreds of applications received from failed asylum-seekers.

In response, we would like to make a couple of observations, in the hope that we can convince you to decide to fully engage with the two conventions as key instruments in the protection of fundamental human rights of stateless persons.

Whilst the fear of pull factor or abuse of the system is understandable and not unique to Malta, we are keen to observe that current practice in those European states implementing a statelessness determination procedure seems to confirm otherwise. Among these European states, there is no evidence at all of the procedure acting as a pull factor. As an example, France’s procedure has been established for many years, and it has consistently received about 200 applications per year. The relativity of these figures is of course pertinent to highlight.

Secondly, an observation on the difference between a statelessness determination procedure and an asylum procedure is a useful exercise. In the former procedure, applicants would be required to willingly cooperate with Malta in terms of enquiries made with their country of origin, or the country with which they have a potential nationality connection (e.g. through birth, descent, marriage). This means that applicants must be prepared for the possibility of this country actually confirming them as nationals and documenting them, thereby securing their removal from Malta and re-entry to this country.

In this sense, it is incorrect to assume that a statelessness determination procedure would result in Malta being required to assume responsibility of hundreds of applicants. On the contrary, it could result in Malta being able to confirm a nationality entitlement and to consequently return individuals to their countries of origin.

It is also pertinent to note that statelessness is an extremely specific situation, to the extent that cases clearly not presenting statelessness issues are rather easily identifiable and therefore readily processed with little resource impact.

Finally, we would also wish to express our disappointment that a matter of fundamental human rights is reduced to a purely administrative and logistical matter. Stateless persons live in a human right limbo, where they are dehumanised on a daily basis. An asylum determination procedure might be useful for the resolution of some situations, but not necessarily for all as not all stateless persons face international protection concerns.

It is for these persons that we strongly urge you to reconsider your stance and to actively engage with the two conventions. Malta’s commitment to upholding fundamental human rights cannot afford to remain relevant for a select few, but should be extended to all persons in Malta. To this end, we reiterate our willingness to discuss the matter further with your Ministry.


Dr. Neil Falzon (Director aditus foundation) and Dr. Katrine Camilleri (Director JRS Malta). The Open Letter is available here (.pdf).

aditus foundation is a member of the European Network on Statelessness.