The International Observatory on Statelessness

Europe overview

Based on UN estimates, the Council of Europe identifies the number of stateless persons in Europe to be 679,000. The Council has adopted two important treaties: the 1997 European Convention on Nationality, which is widely signed (if not ratified), and the 2006 Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in relation to State Succession.

One of the largest groups of concern in Europe is the Roma. Information on the number of actual Roma residents in each country, let alone the number who are stateless or de facto stateless varies. Roma communities often have poor access to housing, health care, and education. In some countries, less than half the members of such communities have attended school or achieved basic literacy levels. In others, they are subject to overt discrimination and violence. Some European governments acknowledge neglect of Roma, but progress on ameliorating the group’s legal and socio-economic status has been slow.

Statelessness issues have also arisen for populations in the former Soviet Union. Though conditions have improved, hundreds of thousands of Russian-speakers in the Baltic states have faced discriminatory policies which have encumbered their access to citizenship. Meskhetian Turks in the Krasnodar Territory of Russia have been denied nationality rights and suffered violence. The resettlement of several thousand to the U.S. in 2004-2007 has been a positive development. With mixed success, countries of the former Yugoslavia are dealing with the nationality status of refugees and displaced persons from the territory’s break-up in the 1990s. In individual cases, some states have recognized and granted citizenship to stateless persons. In 2006, Romania ratified both statelessness conventions and Montenegro ratified the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons. In 2008, Austria ratified the 1954 Convention and Finland ratified the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.