Update from December 2023:
In September 2023, the Belgian Government submitted a proposal to amend the Immigration Law with a view to introducing a new right of residence for stateless persons. The proposal is currently being discussed in Parliament and the new legislation is expected to be adopted in January 2023. The bill proposes to establish a new administrative procedure to determine statelessness that would lead to a right to reside, while the current judicial procedure would be maintained. While introducing a residence permit for stateless people is welcome, the current proposal contains several concerning features, including imposing conditions that go beyond the 1954 Convention and UNHCR guidance, and creating a complex and intricate mechanism that is not in line with Belgium’s international obligations. ENS and NANSEN published a joint opinion analysing the proposal.
Since August, there have been reports that several municipalities were instructed by the Immigration Office to withdraw the Belgian nationality of children born in Belgium to Palestinian parents, who had acquired it on the basis that they were otherwise stateless (Article 10, Nationality Code). The instructions issued by the Immigration Office are considered illegal by legal experts as it does not have competency on this matter.
The information below was last updated in February 2023. A full update to this page will be available in 2024.
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, the burden and standard of proof do not comply with international standards, and recognition of statelessness by the courts does not currently lead to a residence permit nor additional rights. The Government pledged to introduce residence permits for stateless persons in 2021 and a consultation process has started, but as of February 2023 there is no information about when or how these commitments will be fulfilled.
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. There is a foundlings provision, but it applies only to newborn children. 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 may prevent some undocumented people from registering their children’s births. 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.