Czech Republic

The legal and policy framework in the Czech Republic has some positive aspects and some significant gaps. The Czech Republic is party to most relevant international and regional instruments, including three of the four core statelessness conventions (although with some important reservations to the 1954 Convention). Some data on the stateless population in the country is available, but it is limited to those legally residing in the country.

The Czech Republic does not have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure. However, since 2019 the Ministry of Interior has issued decisions confirming statelessness under the 1954 Convention. There is no clear procedure set in law for these decisions, although jurisprudence requires that the rules applying to the refugee determination procedure should apply. Procedural safeguards are limited and recognition leads to limited rights only, although recent jurisprudence has begun to improve the situation. There are also gaps in the legal framework to protect stateless people from arbitrary immigration detention, as a country of removal does not need to be established prior to detention, statelessness is not routinely identified in detention decision-making, and, although there are some procedural safeguards, there is no periodic review of detention unless requested by the person detained.

A partial safeguard is in place to prevent children being born stateless in the Czech Republic, but this depends on the actions or status of parents. Provisions protect the right to nationality for foundlings, children born to refugees, and adopted children. Births must be registered, and birth certificates issued to all children. Documentation requirements can be waived in certain circumstances and there are mechanisms in place to determine the child’s nationality. Positively, there are no legal powers for the authorities to deprive someone of Czech nationality, no provisions for automatic loss, and safeguards are in place to prevent statelessness in cases of voluntary renunciation.

Last updated: 
Mar 2021
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2022
Country expert(s): 

Aneta Šubrtová & Hana Franková, Organisation for Aid to Refugees (OPU)

Additional resources

ASSESSMENT KEY

++POSITIVE
+ SOMEWHAT POSITIVE
+-POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
- SOMEWHAT NEGATIVE
--NEGATIVE

ADDITIONAL INFO

-NORMS & GOOD PRACTICE

 

International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are State party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

The Czech Republic generally has a good record on accession to relevant human rights instruments, including both the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions, and the European Convention on Nationality. However, it retains significant reservations to the 1954 Convention, which impact on the rights of stateless people on the territory, and it has not acceded to the Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.

  • The Czech Republic is state party to the 1954 Convention, and it has direct effect; but it retains a number of significant reservations, for example, restricting rights to identity papers (Article 27) and travel documents (Article 28) to stateless people holding permanent residence permits.
  • The Czech Republic is state party to the 1961 Convention with no reservations, and it has direct effect.
  • The Czech Republic is state party to the European Convention on Nationality, but not to the Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • The Czech Republic is bound by the EU Returns Directive and is party to all other relevant regional and international human rights treaties (with no relevant reservations), except for the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries, and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are sufficient measures in place to count stateless persons in detention.

The Czech Republic publishes asylum and immigration data, which contains some disaggregated information on stateless migrants and refugees. The Ministry of Interior also reports monthly on the number of stateless people holding residence permits. However, there are potentially overlapping categories such as ‘citizenship unknown or unidentified’ and ‘Palestinians’, and the data only counts stateless people legally residing in the country, so the figures are likely to be an underestimate of the stateless population. A UNHCR mapping study of statelessness in the Czech Republic was published in December 2020.

  • The Czech Republic gathers and makes available statistical data on asylum, immigration and to some extent, statelessness, which is disaggregated by sex (and some also by age). 
  • The last population census (2011) included the categories 'no citizenship' (1,502 people) and 'not identified' (60,208 people). The next census will be carried out in 2021. 
  • The Czech Statistical Office and Ministry of the Interior publish annual disaggregated data under the combined nationality categories 'stateless', 'not identified', and 'other' (770 people at the end of 2018). 
  • The Ministry of Interior reports the number of stateless people with legal residence on a monthly basis. On 31 August 2020, it reported 89 stateless people with temporary residence and 406 with permanent residence permits.
  • The Ministry of Interior also reports figures for the categories 'citizenship unknown or non-identified' (33 people in August 2020), and 'Palestinians' (187 people); as well as for asylum seekers and people granted international protection. In 2018, it reported that 20 applications for international protection were initiated by people recorded as stateless. 
  • UNHCR estimates there to be 1,500 stateless people in the Czech Republic, based on a  mapping study of statelessness carried out in 2018 and published in December 2020.. 
  • The Government only regularly reports figures for stateless people legally residing in the country, and these numbers are spread across different registries. No government figures are available for the stateless population as a whole, so estimates are likely an underrepresentation.
  • The Refugee Facilities Administration (which manages detention facilities) collects and holds internal data disaggregated by nationality, sex, age and status (e.g. asylum seeker). The Immigration Police also records detention decisions, disaggregated by nationality, including a category ‘stateless person’, but these are only internal statistics and are not published. A freedom of information request revealed that no stateless people were detained in 2020.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure (SDP) leading to a dedicated stateless status. If an SDP is not place, it assesses whether there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified or other routes through which stateless people could regularise their stay or access their rights. Countries are subdivided in three groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP leading to protection, those with other procedures, and those with a stateless status but no clear mechanism to access protection. The existing procedures and rights granted to stateless persons are examined and assessed against international norms and good practice.

There is no definition of a stateless person in Czech law but since the 1954 Convention has direct effect, the Convention definition is applied. The Czech Republic does not have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure, but the Ministry of Interior in 2019 began to determine and issue certificates to confirm statelessness under the Convention. However, there is no clear procedure set in law, no guidance for decision-makers, and only limited rights are granted as a consequence of statelessness determination. Legal aid is not guaranteed, and other procedural safeguards are limited. In order to secure any rights, people recognised as stateless are advised to initiate a removal procedure and seek a tolerated stay permit on grounds that removal is impossible, which provides a route to residence and some rights at the discretion of the Government. The Ministry of Interior may facilitate naturalisation for stateless people with permanent residence, but this is discretionary.

  • There is no definition of a stateless person in Czech law (although 'stateless persons' are mentioned in national legislation including the Asylum Act and the Citizenship Act). However, as the 1954 Convention has direct effect, the convention definition and exclusion clauses apply.
  • UNHCR has organised ad hoc training - primarily for legal aid providers - in cooperation with the Czech Ombudsperson's Office, and OPU (in cooperation with ENS) provided training in 2020 for social workers, practitioners, lawyers and attorneys including officials from state institutions.
  • However,  the Government does not provide any formal training on statelessness for decision-makers .
  • There is no dedicated SDP in the Czech Republic.
  • The Asylum Act provides that the Ministry of Interior decides on 'applications made according to the 1954 Convention'. However, the procedure for such applications is not further regulated.
  • The Asylum Act designates the Ministry of Interior as the competent authority to decide on applications under the 1954 Convention. However, no further detail is provided on how a determination should be carried out. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Asylum Act states that there is no need for a dedicated procedure to determine statelessness due to low numbers of applicants, and that mechanisms established for international protection applications should be used for this purpose.
  • Since January 2019 the Ministry has been determining and issuing a certificate to confirm statelessness applications under the Convention, but no status or rights are granted to the person as a consequence of statelessness determination.
  • The Supreme Administrative Court decided in March 2019 that the procedure to determine statelessness should be analogous to the refugee determination procedure.
  • The examination is conducted by the Department of Asylum and Migration Policy under the Ministry of Interior. There is no clear procedure set in law, though jurisprudence states the rules applying to the refugee determination procedure should apply. 
  • There is no clear, accessible information on how to access the procedure.
  • UNHCR has organised ad hoc training - primarily for legal aid providers - in cooperation with the Czech Ombudsperson's Office, but there is no formal training on statelessness for decision-makers and no official cooperation between agencies that may have contact with stateless people to refer cases for determination.
  • The burden of proof is in principle shared, by analogy to the refugee determination procedure, and the standard of proof should also be the same as in the asylum procedure.  However, in practice, more action on the part of the applicant is required to substantiate their claim.
  • Free legal aid is not provided for in law (unlike in the case of the asylum procedure where it is guaranteed); however, free legal assistance has been provided by OPU in practice. 
  • An interview is not provided for in law, but in practice so far, an interview has always been provided (unless decided positively without interview).
  • Free interpreting and translation may be but is not always provided.
  • By analogy with the asylum procedure and in practice so far, decisions are given in writing.
  • Recognition of statelessness does not lead to any status or residence rights. The decision explicitly states that statelessness determination does not give a legal right to stay and informs the person of the only route to regularise their stay (unless they have a right to residence on another basis), which is to initiate a removal procedure, secure an administrative expulsion decision and then request a tolerated stay permit on the basis that removal is not possible. During this procedure, the stateless person has no rights nor legal status, despite the fact that the decision on statelessness has been issued. This option is not available to anyone against whom an expulsion order has previously been issued by the criminal court.
  • A tolerated stay visa is granted for one year, after which, the person can apply for a tolerated stay long term residence, which may be granted for two years and is renewable. After five years in total, the stateless person may request permanent residence. 
  • It is possible to apply to be part the public health insurance programme after at least one year on a tolerated stay visa, but this is not automatic and is accorded on humanitarian grounds at the discretion of the Ministry of Interior.
  • It is also possible for someone on tolerated stay to make a special request to obtain a work permit subject to certain criteria set out in the Employment Act. The right to family reunification is not granted to holders of a tolerated stay visa, but it is possible for holders of long-term residence. Legally residing foreigners can in some cases access social services and social benefits in order to secure housing.
  • A travel document accepted by the Czech Immigration Police and some other countries can be requested with tolerated stay, but once the stateless person leaves the Czech Republic their tolerated stay expires, so they cannot return. A 'foreigner's passport' will be issued to those who have acquired permanent residence.
  • The right to education is granted to stateless people regardless of their residence status.
  • The right to vote is reserved to Czech nationals only.
  • Generally, it is possible to naturalise after five years’ permanent residence, so, in the case of someone with tolerated stay, this would be five years of tolerated stay plus five years of permanent residence. However, for stateless people (and refugees), naturalisation may be facilitated at the discretion of the Ministry of Interior once the person holds permanent residence.  
  • It is also possible for the Ministry of Interior to waive the requirement that a person wishing to naturalise is not a burden on the social security system in the case of stateless people and refugees.
  • Other requirements for naturalisation must be met (i.e. language and citizenship test (not required if the person has studied in Czech for three years, is under 15, over 65, or mentally disabled)); proof of income; no criminal record).
  • The application for naturalisation is free, but if granted, there is a fee of 2000 CZK for adults and 500 CZK for minors and refugees. At the discretion of the Ministry, the fee can be reduced to 500 CZK in exceptional cases and 100 CZK for minors and refugees. There is no specific exemption for stateless people, but they can apply as an exceptional case.
  • Czech nationality cannot be obtained if the person has a criminal record, and there is no exemption from this requirement for stateless people.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, but focusing on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as detention decision-making, how alternatives to detention are legislated for and implemented, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight, and effective remedies, as well as protections on release.

There are gaps in the legal framework to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention in the Czech Republic. A proposed country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detaining someone, statelessness is not assessed during the decision to detain nor considered relevant in vulnerability assessments, and, although there is a requirement to consider alternatives to detention, there is no need to exhaust all alternatives prior to detention. There are some procedural safeguards (time limit, written decisions, free legal aid), but there are no automatic periodic reviews of detention, and no identification documents or legal status are issued to people on release from detention. Statelessness is considered in most bilateral return or readmission agreements entered into by the Czech Republic, most of which explicitly permit the readmission of stateless people.

  • Powers for immigration detention are provided for in law and are restricted to purposes allowed under ECHR 5(1)(f).
  • A proposed country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detention. The only obligation is that a reasonable prospect of removal exists in practice. The authorities generally identify a country or countries of removal in the detention decision, but these may change during the procedure.
  • Statelessness can be put forward by the individual as an argument for removal being impossible, but in practice no assessment of statelessness is carried out by the authorities during the decision to detain. 
  • There is a requirement to consider alternatives in each individual case, but not for the authorities to exhaust all possible alternatives prior to detaining someone. 
  • Vulnerability assessments are carried out by the Ministry of Interior when detaining asylum seekers, but not by the Immigration Police in other immigration detention decision-making. Statelessness is not considered relevant in vulnerability assessments.
  • Authorities must consider the alternatives established in law for each individual case prior to rendering a decision to detain. Alternatives vary depending on the type of detention (i.e. deportation, Dublin transfer, asylum-seekers) and include, stay at an address designated by the Immigration Police, regular reporting to the Immigration Police, and obligation to stay at the asylum reception centre. 
  • However, there is evidence that detention is used prior to all alternatives being considered in practice.
  • A maximum time limit on detention of 180 days is set in law. This can be extended if the person or country of origin does not cooperate but cannot exceed 545 days in total. For minor and families with children, the maximum time limit is 90 days. For asylum seekers the maximum is 120 days.
  • Decisions to detain setting out the reasons for detention and initial duration must be rendered in writing within 48 hours. 
  • The Police must notify detainees how to challenge their detention and request release and provide information about free legal counselling. No information is provided about statelessness determination.
  • There is no regular periodic review of the necessity for continued detention unless the detainee requests this. The detainee may appeal to the court against the detention decision within 30 days, and again 30 days after the previous court decision. It is possible to appeal the negative court decision to the Supreme Administrative Court within 14 days. The detainee must be released immediately if the court gives a positive decision. There is also a possibility to request release to the authority that made the initial detention decision (i.e. the Immigration Police or Ministry of the Interior) every month. 
  • Free legal aid is provided weekly in every detention facility. Detainees can opt for NGO representation or the court can appoint a legal representative free of charge.
  • It is possible to apply for determination of statelessness from detention through written application to the Ministry of Interior with the assistance of a lawyer.
  • No public information is available about any guidelines in place governing the process of re-documentation/ascertaining nationality, which is carried out by the Immigration Police.
  • No identification documents or legal status are issued to people on release from detention. A one-month departure order visa is issued if the person does not hold a travel document, but the law does not currently provide a route to regularisation if the person cannot be removed.
  • Cumulative time spent in detention is not counted towards the maximum time limit.
  • As an EU Member State, the Czech Republic mostly implements EU Readmission Agreements in which stateless persons are considered (e.g. Readmission Agreement with Serbia or Ukraine).  
  • In bilateral agreements, statelessness is generally considered. For example, a procedure to determine nationality or statelessness is considered in the agreement with Kosovo, which includes reference to safeguards for people born on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia, and interviews to determine nationality. In most bilateral agreements, there are paragraphs explicitly permitting the readmission of third country nationals including stateless persons (e.g. Poland, Romania, and Moldova). The only bilateral agreement that does not mention stateless persons at all is the one with Vietnam.
  • No information is available about how these provisions are implemented in practice.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy, and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, reduction measures taken by states to prevent and reduce statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions for the deprivation of nationality.

The Czech Republic performs relatively well on the prevention and reduction of statelessness, but there is an important gap for children born stateless in the Czech Republic, as the child’s ability to acquire Czech nationality depends on the actions or status of the parents. There is a specific provision to protect the right to a nationality of children born to refugees, foundlings, and to prevent statelessness in the adoption process. The law also provides that all births must be registered within three days and birth certificates issued to all children within 30 days. Documentation requirements may be waived in certain circumstances (for refugees and asylum-seekers) and a solemn declaration provided instead. The child's nationality is not recorded on the birth certificate and a procedure is in place for determining nationality later. There are no legal powers for the authorities to deprive someone of Czech nationality, no provisions for automatic loss, and safeguards are in place to prevent statelessness in cases of voluntary renunciation.

  • There are provisions in law for children born in the Czech Republic who would otherwise be stateless to acquire Czech nationality, but they do not constitute a full safeguard to prevent statelessness in all cases. 
  • In the case of children born on the territory whose both parents are stateless, the provision is automatic, by operation of the law. In other cases, an application must be made to the Ministry of Interior for a Certificate of Czech Citizenship, in which parents must prove that the child has not become stateless because they failed to take necessary steps to confer their nationality to the child.
  • In both cases, for the child to acquire Czech nationality, at least one of the parents must have held legal residence in the country for at least 90 days at the time of the child's birth.
  • There is no age or time limit by which the stateless child/person born on the territory must apply.
  • There is a specific provision to protect the right to a nationality of children born to refugees. Being a refugee is considered relevant grounds for a parent not to take steps for their child to acquire their nationality if this requires contact with the authorities of their country of origin.
  • A foundling acquires Czech nationality on the day they are found, if they are under three and the authority has not established that they have acquired another nationality within six months. If they are over three years-old, and their identity cannot be established because of their young age or disability, they acquire Czech nationality upon application lodged by a guardian. 
  • There is no age limit for foundlings to acquire nationality and it may not be withdrawn.
  • For an adopted child to lose Czech nationality, the parents of the adopted child must prove the child has or will acquire another nationality, and there are safeguards in place to prevent statelessness in the process.
  • If at least one parent is a Czech national, the adopted child acquires Czech nationality upon confirmation of the adoption by the Czech authorities.
  • If at least one parent is a Czech national, children born abroad acquire nationality by descent and there are no discriminatory conditions.
  • The law provides that all children must be registered within three days of birth. The registration is carried out by the facility where the child is born or, in the case of a home birth, the parents must register the child at the registry office in their place of residence within three days (in the case of the mother, within three days of being capable of doing so). Not registering a birth is a criminal offence and punishable by a fine of up to 5000 CZK (approximately 190 EUR).
  • The obligation to present documentation for birth registration can be waived in special circumstances and a solemn declaration provided instead (e.g. in the case of refugees/asylum-seekers). 
  • All children, regardless of legal status or nationality will be issued with a Czech birth certificate by the Birth Registry within 30 days of notification of the birth.
  • The child's nationality is not recorded in the birth registry nor on the birth certificate, but the parents' nationality is recorded. The child's nationality will be determined when they apply for a Czech passport, identity document or visa. The parents of a child who does not acquire Czech nationality at birth should apply for a visa on their behalf within 60 days at which point the Czech authorities will determine the child's nationality. If there is any doubt about the child acquiring Czech nationality at birth, parents must apply for a Certificate of Czech Citizenship (CCC) at the local birth registry in the place of birth.
  • There are no credible reports of children being prevented from having their births registered.
  • There is no evidence of proactive action or campaigns on the part of the Czech authorities to reduce statelessness or promote birth registration among high-risk groups.
  • Statelessness has primarily been considered a migratory issue in the Czech Republic. UNHCR has recommended the Government commission research on in situ statelessness.
  • There are no provisions on deprivation of nationality in Czech law.
  • In case of voluntary renunciation of nationality, the person concerned must prove that they have or will acquire another nationality and a safeguard is in place to prevent statelessness in the procedure.

Resources

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