Belgium has a relatively good record on accession to relevant human rights instruments, but it entered declarations to the 1961 Convention, which limit the scope of some provisions to prevent statelessness, and it has not acceded the relevant Council of Europe Conventions. Some data on the stateless population is available and improvements have been made, but there are some remaining gaps. Statelessness may be determined through a judicial procedure, but this lacks procedural rules and safeguards, there are issues with the burden and standard of proof, and recognition of statelessness by the courts does not automatically lead to a residence permit nor additional rights. There are also gaps in safeguards to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people and people released from detention are not provided with identification documents or rights.
There are some safeguards to prevent and reduce statelessness established in Belgian law, including a provision to automatically grant nationality to otherwise stateless children born on the territory, but there are issues with how this operates in practice. The foundlings provision applies only to newborn children and there may be a risk of statelessness in adoption proceedings due to rules on loss and acquisition of Belgian nationality. Although all births should be registered in Belgium irrespective of parents’ status, public servants must report undocumented people to the immigration authorities, which could be a barrier in practice. Parents must also be legally residing to subsequently register a child in the National Registry, a precondition for access to many rights, including full access to education and healthcare. On loss and deprivation of nationality, there are safeguards to prevent statelessness in most cases, except where nationality is acquired through fraud.
Valérie Klein and Julie Lejeune, NANSEN