1. definition
  2. examples and/or illustrations
  3. other useful sources
  4. bibliography


  1. Which has no legal nationality. From: The Concise Oxford Dictionary 2011
  2. The term stateless (the privative prefix a-and Greek patristic, “land of the ancestors”), according to the New York Convention of 28 September 1954, applies to “any person who is not considered as a national by application its legislation. ” More simply, means a stateless person without nationality homeland therefore legal. From: Wikipedia

Someone stateless statelessness or so seems like the opposite of citizenship. This is done to a person having no nationality, being a citizen of any country. The various rights granted based on citizenship (voting, consular protection, free movement …) are not recognized stateless. On an international level, the only people with legal personality are States and certain international organizations. Thus through his state of citizenship that a person has access to the international stage. Stateless persons are doubly penalized: a nationally and internationally.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/stateless (Accessed January 31 2012)

(adj.) Not having any recognized citizenship in a nation-state. 

(adj.) Having no citizenship or nationality.

Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. US Department of Defense 2005.

(adj.) Civilian who has been denationalized or whose country of origin cannot be determined or who cannot establish a right to the nationality claimed. See also dislocated civilian; displaced person; evacuee; expellee; refugee.


Examples and/or Illustrations

The New York Convention of 1954 shows that many states want to prevent and eradicate the phenomenon of statelessness. The agreement provides for numerous measures to help stateless – not just those who are refugees. The states that have ratified must ensure basic rights to stateless “whose state is the habitual residence” as the ability to work, access to care, and housing and move freely. This convention was ratified by 66 states in August 2011.

The grant of citizenship to stateless is governed by the law states. For example, Canada in Article 5 of the Citizenship Act establishes case of stateless persons residing in Canada for a while can get Canadian citizenship.

There are a few examples of stateless “famous”. Stefan Zweig, Austrian Jewish writer, was forced to leave his country during the invasion in 1938, and lost his nationality, he will remain stateless until the end of his life four years later. Albert Einstein was also stateless, but just temporarily. He has renounced his German citizenship in 1896 and thus remained stateless until he was granted Swiss citizenship, 5 years later in 1901.

There are many circumstances and causes from which a person can arise to become stateless. Some include: 1) not having proof of nationality 2) persons inhabiting non-state territories 3) if and when individuals renounce their citizenship 4) state succession 5) discrimination.

UNHCR estimates there are 12 million stateless people around the world.

“The stateless typically are not free-floating, deracinated individuals, moving aimlessly around the globe. They are usually people settled in particular societies, albeit lacking legal recognition of and appropriate protection for their status as residents. The primary injustice the stateless experience, then, is not that they cannot find a state to grant them citizenship but that the state which should grant them citizenship will, for various reasons, not do so.” (Gibney, p. 1)


Other Useful Sources

Arendt, Hannah. (1945) “The Stateless People.” Contemporary Jewish Record  Vol. 8 Issue 2 pp. 137-154

Batchelor, Carol A. (1995) “Stateless Persons: Some Gaps in International Protection” International Journal of Refugee Law Vol. 7. Issue 2 pp. 232-259. 

Berkeley, Bill. (2009) “Stateless People, Violent States” World Policy Journal  Vol. 26 Issue 1 pp. 3-15

Crisp, Jeff. (2009) “Refugees, Persons of Concern, and People on the Move: The Broadening Boundaries of UNHCR” Refuge Vol. 26 Issue 1 pp. 73-76

Heuer, Wolfgang. (2007) “Europe and Its Refugees: Arendt on the Politicization of Minorities” Social Research Vol. 74 Issue 4 pp. 1159-1172.

Tölölyan, Khachig. (1996) “Rethinking Diaspora(s): Stateless Power in the Transnational Moment” Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies Vol 5, Issue 1 pp. 3-36

– UNHCR launched a global campaign to fight against statelessness of UNHCR
This article from the website of the UNHCR, reported on the phenomenon of statelessness in 2011. It provides a brief portrait of the different sources at the origin of the phenomenon of these consequences. It explains the progress made in the fight against the phenomenon: particularly the fact that several countries such as Tunisia and Egypt have amended their citizenship laws discriminate against women and contributing to statelessness. But adds still too few states have ratified the conventions to reduce the number of stateless and that the problem is most acute.

– Map of States Parties to the Convention and the 1954 or the 1961 Convention on Stateless Persons.
This card allows the UNHCR to have an overview on the issue of statelessness. We see that the states most affected by the phenomenon are often part of any of the two conventions. And still too few states have ratified one or both conventions. http://www.unhcr.fr/4d6510276.html consulted.

– Special issue of Refugees magazine on stateless
This edition of the magazine Refugees from 2007 covering only the stateless is fully available on the Internet. This issue explores the world of stateless through several stories on the issue. First a report explaining the general phenomenon with maps to illustrate the point. Then various reports more accurate based on concrete examples of statelessness, including Sri Lanka and Africa. The magazine also contains personal accounts of stateless persons, as the case of Trevor Ncube of Zimbabwe who was left overnight without nationality, and lingers in those countries where discriminatory laws make women more vulnerable to statelessness.


Gibney, Matthew. (2006) “Statelessness and the right to citizenship” Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University, FMR 32.

Roget’s Illustrated, Paris, Éditions Larousse, 2011.

Wikipedia, online: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apatride

Citizenship Act, L.R.C 1985, c. C-29.

1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, 28 September 1954, UNTS

1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, 30 August 1961, UNTS

UNHCR, “UNHCR is launching a global campaign to fight against statelessness” UNHCR.com, August 25, 2011, online: www.unhcr.fr/4e551494c.html

States parties to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness October 1, 2011 (map), UNHCR.com, online: http://www.unhcr.fr/4d6510276.html

Refugees: the strange and unfamiliar stateless persons, UNHCR, No. 147 v.3, 2007, available online: www.unhcr.fr/4ad2f92aa.html


Other related words (may be concepts):