Austria’s accession record to relevant human rights treaties is generally good, but it retains several significant reservations to statelessness-specific instruments, which impact on the right to a nationality. Some data on the stateless population in Austria is available, but different nationality categories are applied inconsistently by different authorities, so its reliability is limited.
Austria lacks a definition of a stateless person and a procedure to determine statelessness in domestic law, although there are other administrative procedures through which statelessness may be identified. However, none of these lead to legal residence status nor rights solely on grounds of statelessness, and there are gaps in procedural safeguards and protection. There are also gaps in the framework to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people, including a lack of consideration of statelessness in the decision to detain, and issues with the implementation of procedural safeguards.
On the prevention and reduction of statelessness, Austrian law establishes some partial safeguards. The Austrian Citizenship Act was amended in March 2022 to allow children born stateless in Austria to apply for nationality over a three-year period, bringing the provision in line with the 1961 Convention. However, there are still significant gaps in safeguards to prevent childhood statelessness. Foundlings only acquire Austrian nationality up to the age of six months and jus sanguinis provisions for children born to Austrian nationals abroad are discriminatory. Birth registration law and practice are generally good and do not create a risk of statelessness. However, legal and practical barriers exist for stateless people to access late birth registration.
While the legislation largely prevents statelessness as a result of loss and deprivation of Austrian nationality, some gaps exist in line with Austria’s reservations to the 1961 Convention and the European Convention on Nationality. A landmark judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union in January 2022 highlighted the limits of Austria’s ‘single nationality’ approach. Until recently, statelessness in Austria mainly occurred in a migratory context, but reports have shown that over 70% of people registered as stateless or undetermined nationality were born in Austria, a percentage that has sharply increased over the past five years.
Leonhard Call-Blaßnig, ENS Individual Member