× Stateless persons in Europe

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Stateless persons in Europe

Statelessness affects around 600,000 people in Europe today. Most can trace their situation back to the political upheaval of the 1990s, in particular the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), but also the breakup of Yugoslavia. Indeed, over 80% of the total reported stateless population in Europe live in just four countries, all successor states of the Soviet Union: Latvia, the Russian Federation, Estonia and Ukraine. The numbers affected in each of these countries continue to decline. Nevertheless, a quarter of a century after state succession took place, nearly half a million people remain stateless in these four states. In the six states to emerge from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a total of almost 10,000 stateless persons are reported and others remain at risk of statelessness due to lack of key forms of documentation.


Across Europe, the other main context in which statelessness arises is migration. In some cases, people who were already stateless in their country of origin arrive in Europe within the mixed migration flows, as migrants, trafficking victims or refugees. In other cases, people may experience citizenship problems and become stateless following their arrival, due to the loss or deprivation of nationality while they are away from their country. With the mass influx in 2015 of migrants and refugees into Europe, the number of stateless persons in some receiving states has grown significantly. For instance, in Sweden, the reported figure for stateless persons in the country climbed from 20,450 at the end of 2013 to 31,062 at the end of 2015. Moreover, children born in Europe to migrant or refugee parents can sometimes be exposed to statelessness as a result of discriminatory nationality laws of the country of origin or a conflict of nationality laws. The nationality laws of many European states have been found to fail to adequately protect children born on their territory from statelessness. In September 2015, the report ‘No Child Should be Stateless’ demonstrated that more than half of European parties to relevant international conventions have not properly implemented their obligations to ensure that all stateless children born in the country acquire a nationality . The same report also highlighted how other factors, such as child abandonment, international surrogacy or cross-border adoption, and systemic birth registration obstacles for particular groups are also producing statelessness in Europe.


Statelessness in Europe is more comprehensively mapped than in any other region: UNHCR has statistical data on statelessness for 42 out of the 50 countries that fall within the scope of their European regional bureau. The total figure reported by UNHCR for persons under its statelessness mandate in Europe as part of its statistical reporting at the end of 2015 is 592.151 persons. Latvia and the Russian Federation have stateless populations of over 100,000 persons within their territory. Stateless populations in Estonia, Ukraine, Sweden, Germany and Poland all exceed 10.000 individuals.


Table X: Countries in Europe with over 10.000 stateless persons




Russian Federation












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