The International Observatory on Statelessness


Groups facing statelessness include some Roma and Palestinians, and a small number of Turks. An estimated 100,000 non-citizen Roma are in Germany. In the 1970s and 1980s, tens of thousands of Roma from Poland, the former Yugoslavia, and Romania, entered Germany fleeing persecution. Local authorities in the German government refused to meet the asylum-seekers’ basic needs, imposing strict police controls, and making arrests. In December 1990, the government of Nordrhein-Westfalen withdrew a regulation allowing stateless Roma to settle there and instead resettled them in another region.

The same year, Germany was the only one of forty-three participants that voted against Resolution 62, Protection of Roma, of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In September 1992, Germany and Romania reached a formal agreement stating that all Romanians (many immigrant Romanians are Roma) ineligible for asylum could be forced back to Romania. Germany may have forced back at least 40,000 to 50,000 Roma. A 1994 law essentially blocked Roma from acquiring residence permits.

While most Turks in Germany are eligible for Turkish citizenship, the longstanding presence of Turkish guest workers and their descendants in Germany raised questions about their nationality rights. Because German nationality laws were previously based exclusively on descent, third generation Turks born in Germany remained foreigners. Legislation passed in 2000 conferred German citizenship on children born to foreigners in Germany who have met certain residency requirements and naturalization processes have become easier. However, dual citizenship is not permitted and persons eligible for a different nationality through birth to foreign parents must choose one citizenship between age 18 and 23.

Turkey revoked the passports of citizens abroad who refused to complete their mandatory military service. About 100 stateless Turks in Germany fell into this category. The German government issued a formal complaint, charging that such action could harm Turkey’s chances for admission to the EU.

Of the 150,000 Palestinians believed to be residing in EU member states, the majority (about 80,000) are in Germany. Most of them are stateless and hold Palestinian refugee travel documents.