Ireland

The legal and policy framework in Ireland has some positive aspects and some significant gaps. Although party to the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions, Ireland has not fully incorporated their provisions into domestic law, and it is not party to the relevant Council of Europe conventions. There is no definition of a stateless person in national law, and no dedicated statelessness determination procedure. The census collects some data on people who identify as having ‘no nationality’, but there are no reliable estimates for the size of the population affected by statelessness in Ireland.

Statelessness may be examined in the context of other immigration, international protection, or nationality related procedures, but there is no published guidance on how to make a claim nor how statelessness should be addressed by decision-makers. Stateless people may be granted a residence permit and the requirement to produce an identity document waived, but this may not be confirmed in writing and 1954 convention rights are not set out in law. There is a facilitated route to naturalisation for stateless people, but nationality may be refused if statelessness cannot be proven. Immigration detention is generally the exception rather than the norm in Ireland and stateless people are not routinely detained, but there are some gaps in legal protections to guarantee against their arbitrary detention.

Safeguards are in place to prevent statelessness at birth in some cases, but there are gaps in law and practice for some children born stateless on the territory. There is a lack of clarity about whether a child older than ‘new-born’ may be considered a foundling, and a risk that children born abroad to same-sex Irish parents may not be able to acquire nationality in all cases. Birth registration law and practice is generally good, but it is unclear how a child’s nationality may be determined if they are not entitled to apply for an Irish passport. There is also a lack of safeguards to prevent statelessness in all cases of revocation, renunciation, and loss of Irish nationality.

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

Catherine Cosgrave, Immigrant Council of Ireland

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.

Ireland is State party to both the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions, but it retains reservations, and neither convention has been fully incorporated into domestic law. It is not State party to either of the Council of Europe conventions relating to statelessness, and it has opted out of the EU Returns Directive, despite being an EU Member State. Ireland also retains a reservation to the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to the provision of free legal aid. It is State party to all other relevant human rights instruments except for the Convention on Migrant Workers.

  • Ireland is State party to the 1954 Convention, but it retains a reservation to Article 29(1) and the Convention does not have direct effect as legislation must be incorporated into domestic law to have effect in Ireland. The 1954 Convention has not been incorporated into domestic law by way of national legislation.
  • Ireland is State party to the 1961 Convention, but although it did not enter a formal declaration or reservation, it stated that it would retain the right to deprive naturalised Irish nationals of their nationality on specific grounds set out in the Nationality and Citizenship Act.
  • The Convention does not have direct effect in the Irish legal system and has not been incorporated into domestic law by way of national legislation.
  • Ireland is not State party to the European Convention on Nationality, nor the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • Ireland is party to the European Convention on Human Rights but retains a reservation in relation to the provision of free legal aid.
  • Ireland has opted out and therefore is not bound by the EU Returns Directive, despite being an EU Member State.
  • Ireland is State party to all other relevant international instruments with no reservations except for the Convention on Migrant Workers, to which it is not State party.

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.

There is very limited data available on the stateless population in Ireland. The last census in 2016 included an option to record ‘no nationality’ on the census form, and the next census in 2021 will ask respondents about nationality, providing an option to answer, ‘no citizenship’. A 2014 UNHCR scoping paper on statelessness in Ireland concluded that there was an absence of reliable data to estimate the size of the affected population. The Government’s monthly asylum data typically only identifies the top five nationalities of asylum applicants and no information is published about the nationality of immigration detainees.

  • There is no specific 'stateless' category in the census, but there is an option to record 'no citizenship’ under the nationality section of the form. The 2016 census report does not report on how many people ticked this box. The CSO StatBank on Migration and Diversity contains data under this category and reports 1,167 respondents identified that they had 'no citizenship'.
  • The 2021 census will ask respondents what citizenship they hold and provide an option to answer, 'no citizenship'.
  • A UNHCR scoping paper on statelessness in Ireland was published in 2014. The paper notes that two formal stateless declarations were issued in 2014, three stateless refugees were relocated to Ireland, but 82 were recorded as 'Burma Rohingya', and since 2000 only 167 applications for refugee status were recorded as made by 'stateless' persons. The paper concludes that there is an absence of reliable data to enable an estimation of the affected population in Ireland.
  • Monthly statistical reports published by the former Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) (now International Protection Office (IPO)) typically only identify the top five nationalities of asylum applicants.
  • No information is published about the nationality of detainees. The Irish Prison Service publishes annual reports, which provide an overview of the number of people detained in Irish prisons, including the number of people detained pursuant to immigration legislation. The information published is not further disaggregated by nationality.
  • It is reported that in 2019 there were 477 immigration detainees, but a breakdown by nationality is not provided.
  • It is further reported that a total of 7,455 people were refused entry to Ireland in 2019, including 50 people recorded as stateless.

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.

Irish law does not set out a definition of a ‘stateless person’ and there is no dedicated statelessness determination procedure leading to a stateless status. Statelessness may be examined by the relevant competent authority in the context of other immigration, international protection, or nationality related procedures but there is no published official information either on how to claim statelessness or how the issue should be addressed by decision-makers, who receive only limited training. The burden and standard of proof are unclear when determining or identifying statelessness and the existence of safeguards such as legal aid and interpreting depends on the procedure. Stateless people may be granted a residence permit and the requirement to produce an identity document waived, but this may not be confirmed in writing and rights are not established in law. Refugees and stateless people may apply for naturalisation after a reduced residence period of three years but granting of nationality is discretionary and it may be refused if the person is unable to prove their statelessness.

  • The International Protection Act 2015 and the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended) contain various references to stateless persons, but no definition of a 'stateless person' is provided.
  • UNHCR assists the International Protection Office (IPO) with induction training for any new staff and panel members, which includes a session on nationality and statelessness.
  • There is no mandatory training that judges or lawyers must attend. Training has been offered by UNHCR, Immigrant Council of Ireland, and ENS on an ad hoc basis either as part of dedicated statelessness training or incorporated into other continuing professional development modules as part of training related to migration and nationality delivered by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, including through the Law Society of Ireland.
  • Details of the UNHCR online e-learning course have also been disseminated, but there is no information on whether judges or lawyers from Ireland have participated.
  • There is no dedicated statelessness determination procedure leading to a dedicated stateless status in Ireland, but there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified.
  • Statelessness maybe examined by the relevant competent authority in the context of other immigration, international protection, or nationality related procedures.
  • The State position is that there is no obligation to have an SDP but to the extent that it is accepted statelessness may need to be considered, this is done on an ad hoc basis having regard to the specific case under consideration.
  • Statelessness is considered on an ad hoc basis if raised in the context of other immigration, international protection, or nationality procedures, having regard to specific circumstances. Statelessness typically needs to be addressed to the authorities by way of a written submission.
  • There is no published information by the State on how to claim statelessness or address the issue in relevant procedures.
  • Statelessness determination or identification is not an explicit objective of any procedures.
  • There is no specific obligation in law on the authorities to consider a claim of statelessness, other than general, public law requirements to consider relevant information submitted as part of immigration or nationality related applications.
  • There is no published information by the State authority on how to make a claim of statelessness or how to address issues related to statelessness when making an immigration or nationality application despite it being a basic requirement to provide evidence of identity, including a passport, in support of an application at the time of registration or being issued a residence card. While such requirements may be waived in practice, there is no published guidance on when this will be done or the evidentiary requirements, if any, to be provided by applicants.
  • Although the INIS (Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service) website notes that stateless people may be eligible to apply for Irish nationality, and there is a fee waiver in such cases, no further information is provided.
  • There is no centralised body or procedure for determining or identifying statelessness. International protection claims are examined by the International Protection Office. Residence applications are considered by different units of the INIS. Applications for nationality are examined by the relevant unit of the INIS.
  • There is no public information confirming whether cooperation is routinely or proactively sought by the Minister for Justice (with responsibility for granting residence permission) and other relevant agencies.
  • There is no clear policy on the burden of proof when determining or identifying statelessness.   In practice, applicants must effectively prove (repeatedly) that they are unable to obtain nationality or identity documents from a national authority. It is unclear what actions, if any, the State authority takes to obtain evidence and establish facts themselves. Occasionally, there may be some evidence that the State authority has made enquiries (usually when seeking to enforce a deportation order).
  • There is no explicit standard of proof set in law. Practice shows that even if consular officials state that a person is not recognised as a national of that country, occasionally the Irish State authority still does not accept the position immediately. The State authority may require an individual to make efforts to establish their identity by way of a national passport without assessing the reasonableness of that request. Irish caselaw refers to the balance of probabilities as the standard of proof in assessing credibility in international protection procedures, which is a higher standard of proof than recommended by UNHCR.
  • There is no publicly available information as to whether any guidance is in place for decision-makers on the assessment of statelessness.
  • In theory, unless explicitly excluded under the Civil Legal Aid Act, legal aid is available. However, in practice, civil legal aid is only available in international protection applications.
  • An interview or oral submissions is only available in international protection applications. All other immigration related residence or nationality applications are dealt with by way of administrative applications in writing only. Not all applications have application forms, and some are addressed simply by letter and/or written submissions.
  • Free translation and interpreting are only provided in international protection applications. The right to interpreting is not set out in law but is provided in practice.
  • In general, it is a public law requirement that reasons should be provided in writing for any decisions taken by the State authority, especially for refusals. In practice, stateless persons may be granted a residence permit and the normal requirements to provide evidence of identity are waived for the registration process and issuing of the residence card. However, the decision letter will generally not state that it is accepted that the applicant is a stateless person. The correspondence may further state the nationality to be a particular nationality the person has asserted they do not hold, and the residence card issued may also state that nationality. Although the requirement to produce evidence of identity is waived in practice, the residence permission letter does not set this out and may actually set out a requirement to produce it, even though it is not actually required. Rather arrangements are made 'behind the scenes' by the decision maker with the registration office. Consequently, even though it may have implicitly been accepted that the applicant cannot produce evidence of identity and is stateless, this is not confirmed in writing and this gives rise to ongoing difficulties for the individual following the grant of residence in trying to deal with other State bodies that may require evidence of identity for example to issue public service cards, social security, or driving licences.
  • Stateless refugees are granted rights akin to nationals, including a right to employment, education, social security, healthcare, renewable residence of at least three years, travel document, and family reunification.
  • Stateless people granted residence outside of international protection are usually provided with terms and conditions by the Minister for Justice on an administrative basis and rights are not set out in law. These usually include a residence permit for a minimum of 12 months (renewable on certain conditions) and access to the labour market. They can also usually access social security and healthcare but may face barriers in practice due to lack of identity documents.
  • Legal residents are permitted to vote in local elections.
  • Stateless people granted discretionary residence will not usually be able to access financial support for further education.
  • There is no statutory right to family reunification, but a discretionary visa may be applied for.
  • Travel documents may be granted on a discretionary basis at a fee of 80 EUR and processing times can be lengthy. Only refugees have a statutory right to a travel document.
  • Refugees and stateless people may apply for naturalisation after a reduced residence period of three years (reduced from five years) but granting of nationality is discretionary and it may be refused on the basis of the stateless person being unable to prove their statelessness due to the lack of an SDP and recognition by the authorities.
  • All applicants pay an initial fee of 175 EUR. Refugees and stateless persons (if recognised) are not required to pay the further 950 EUR fee if granted nationality.
  • The Minister for Justice has granted Irish nationality to some individuals who have asserted they are stateless and the INIS has waived the requirement to provide evidence of identity during the application process. However, the fee waiver for stateless people was not applied, as the applicant could not produce a stateless determination certificate, which the Minister for Justice refuses to issue to stateless persons.
  • There are no English or other language tests for any applicants for Irish nationality.

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 no dedicated immigration detention centres in Ireland, so immigration detainees are held in prisons. Immigration-related detention in Ireland is the exception rather than the norm and stateless people are not routinely detained, but there are some gaps in the legal framework to protect them from arbitrary detention. There is no requirement for a country of removal to be identified in the deportation order and statelessness is not proactively considered in the decision to detain.  The law does not explicitly provide that detention should only be used as a measure of last resort after all alternatives have been exhausted and legal aid is not guaranteed. People released from detention are not issued with identification documents nor do they have specific rights unless they have applied for international protection.

  • Powers to detain are provided for in law and are limited to grounds permitted by the European Convention on Human Rights Article 5(1)(f), including following refusal of entry and during removal, pending deportation, and for international protection applicants. However, there is no systemic practice of detaining applicants for international protection and there is a general ban on detaining minors.
  • There are no dedicated immigration detention centres, so immigration detainees are held in prisons.
  • There is no requirement for the country to which the person is to be returned be named in the deportation order and this was held by the Supreme Court in a 2006 judgment.
  • It is possible for an application for international protection to be made from detention and statelessness may be raised within this, but there is no dedicated SDP. If a person's identity or nationality cannot be established, they may be released on these grounds, but statelessness is not proactively considered by the authorities as part of the decision to detain.
  • Given the relatively low numbers of international protection applicants and the lack of systematic detention, stateless people are not routinely detained.
  • The law does not explicitly provide that detention should only be used as a last resort after all alternatives have been exhausted, but deprivation of liberty for immigration-related purposes in Ireland is generally the exception rather than the norm.
  • Vulnerability assessments are not routinely carried out and statelessness is not considered a factor increasing vulnerability. It is not clear which authority has responsibility for assessing vulnerability, although there is a definition in Irish law in line with the EU Reception Directive.
  • Immigration related detention is generally not mandatory in Ireland. Statutory provisions are framed in 'may' not 'shall' terms. There is no publicly available information regarding any consideration that immigration officers may give to alternatives prior to any decision to detain.
  • In the context of refusal of permission to land or enter and removal, the period of detention may not exceed eight weeks in aggregate. However, any period spent in detention during a legal challenge of the removal is excluded.In the context of international protection, there is a broader detention power with no maximum time limit. The detention must be reviewed and re-authorised by the District Court every 21 days. This could apply to stateless people if the applicant 'has not made reasonable efforts to establish his or her identity'. Removal related detention also has an eight-week maximum time limit, but this may be extended in certain circumstances by the District Court.
  • Legislation does not expressly set out that reasons for immigration detention must be provided, but if a person is refused entry to the State, there is a right to receive written reasons for the decision. If proposing deportation, the Minister must provide notice and written reasons. A detention warrant serves as notice of the reasons for refusal.
  • Detainees are not provided with information about their rights and contact details for legal advice and support.
  • Not all detention is subject to periodic judicial review, but detained international protection applicants must be brought before a court every 21 days.
  • A detained person may challenge detention by way of Habeas Corpus proceedings. There is no right of appeal against a decision to refuse entry and/or issue a removal order or deportation order but the person may apply for judicial review in the High Court to challenge the lawfulness of the decision. Where a person is detained following a decision to refuse entry and institutes court proceedings challenging the removal, the court may determine whether the person shall continue to be detained or shall be released, and may make any such release subject to conditions. There are obstacles to effective remedies, including lack of access to an independent appeals process and lack of access to legal aid.
  • Civil legal aid is not generally available and is not administered by detention facilities. Civil legal aid is not free, and any qualifying applicant must pay a contribution depending on their income and capital. The scope of legal aid extends to provision of pre-questionnaire and pre-interview advice and submissions, representation at Dublin III appeals and appeals against first instance decisions to refuse international protection. In non-international protection applications, legal aid is generally not applied for by persons refused leave to land and subject to removal at a port of entry. Individuals may apply for and be granted legal aid to make submissions to the Minister following the issuing of a deportation proposal or if applying to revoke a deportation order. There is no information available regarding how many such applications may have been made. In all cases, legal aid is not provided in judicial review proceedings and solicitors must advise clients to obtain immediate private legal representation to pursue this option.
  • There are no published guidelines governing the process of redocumentation or ascertaining nationality.
  • People released from detention are not issued with identification documents unless they have applied for international protection and are issued with a temporary residence certificate or, following an application, if they have been issued with a Travel Document.
  • There is no explicit protection from re-detention, but detention is the exception and not the norm in Ireland.
  • There are no specific rights provided for people released from detention, this will depend on whether they have applied for international protection, residence, if there is a deportation order in force etc. Some support may be provided on a discretionary basis by a community welfare officer. Applicants for international protection are granted rights in line with EU law.
  • A deportation order will remain in force until such time as the Minister for Justice determines an application to revoke the deportation order.
  • Cumulative time spent in detention may count towards the time limit for detention under the Immigration Act (not in the case of international protection where there is no explicit time limit).
  • Ireland has no formal bilateral readmission agreements with any third countries other than an agreement with Nigeria, which is not yet formally ratified by the Nigerian authorities.

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.

There are some safeguards to prevent and reduce statelessness in Ireland, but there are also gaps in law and practice. A child born stateless on the territory may acquire Irish nationality if they are ‘not entitled to citizenship of any other country’, however this excludes children who may be entitled by law but cannot acquire the nationality of one of their parents. There is no published guidance on how the safeguard is implemented. The law prevents statelessness in the case of foundlings, adopted children and children born abroad to Irish nationals. However, it is unclear if the provision on foundlings applies to older children, and the lack of regulation of all forms of assisted human reproduction may have consequences for some children, particularly children of same-sex couples born abroad and if the Irish parent is not a birth parent. Birth registration is a legal requirement and there are no reports of specific barriers. However, there is no mechanism for determining a child’s nationality other than if the child is entitled to Irish nationality and applies for a passport. There are provisions in law permitting deprivation of nationality for naturalised Irish nationals in certain circumstances and there is no specific safeguard against statelessness in such cases, nor in cases of renunciation or voluntary loss.

  • There is a partial safeguard in Irish nationality law, entitling any child born in Ireland to nationality from birth if they are 'not entitled to citizenship of any other country'. However, this leaves a gap for children who may be entitled but cannot acquire in practice the nationality of one of their parents, for example, if parents are refugees and cannot meet a requirement to register with consular authorities.
  • It is not clear whether the provision is automatic or non-automatic as there is no published guidance relating to the statutory provisions. Any person who claims to be Irish may apply for a certificate of nationality to the Minister for Justice, and at least one case has been reported about a stateless child born in Ireland who was issued a certificate of nationality through this route. A child otherwise entitled to Irish nationality would usually just apply for a passport providing documentary evidence to support their birth right entitlement. There is no reference to stateless children in the Passports Act nor guidance on applying for a passport. It is likely that any request for a certificate of nationality or passport would be scrutinised closely and evidence required of the child's inability to acquire another nationality, but practice is unclear.
  • There is no residence requirement for parents or the child, nor any age limit.
  • There are no specific provisions to protect the right to a nationality of refugee children and they may be at particular risk of falling through the gap in the legal safeguard.
  • There is a safeguard in law for foundlings to acquire Irish nationality automatically at birth, but there is no published guidance on how this is implemented in practice.
  • The law refers to 'newborn' children, but there is no guidance on how this is interpreted or applied in practice.
  • There are no provisions for Irish nationality by birth to be revoked. This is only possible in the case of naturalised persons.
  • Adopted children do not lose their Irish nationality.
  • A child adopted by at least one Irish national becomes Irish upon the adoption being recognised by the State and there is no age limit.
  • Children born to Irish nationals abroad are Irish and there are no conditions.
  • Although the statutory provisions are gender neutral and refer to 'parent', there are some possible risks arising in practice due to the lack of comprehensive regulation of all forms of assisted human reproduction, including surrogacy and reciprocal IVF. This may have consequences for some children, particularly of same-sex couples born outside of Ireland and if the Irish parent is not a birth parent.
  • Birth registration is a legal requirement for all children. Children must be registered within three months of birth. Following notification of the birth to the birth registration office, a birth certificate is usually issued within two weeks.
  • The form to register the child's birth records information about the child's parents' nationality but does not record the child's nationality.
  • For children who are entitled to Irish nationality, this is generally acquired by way of an application for an Irish passport, if such an application is made. There is no other State procedure for determining the nationality of children.
  • There are no reports of specific groups of children facing barriers to accessing birth registration.
  • There are no requirements on public bodies to report undocumented persons to the immigration authorities, but data sharing is not prohibited. There is no reported evidence that this acts as a deterrent to individuals seeking to access maternity, health or civil registration services.
  • Late birth registration is possible. The Chief Registrar shall not register a birth more than 12 months after the date of birth without written consent from the Superintendent Registrar.
  • Clear public information is available about how to register a birth. There is no evidence of issues with birth registration and there are no promotional campaigns.
  • Groups at risk of statelessness or who are stateless in Ireland include migrants, refugees, Romani people, those born in the former USSR, and specific refugee communities with existing stateless populations, such as Rohingya and Kuwaiti Bidoon.
  • The Government has not implemented any specific measures aimed at reducing statelessness.
  • There are provisions in law permitting deprivation of nationality for naturalised Irish nationals in certain circumstances and there is no specific safeguard against statelessness.
  • There are also statutory provisions relating to the refusal to issue an Irish passport and/or cancellation and surrender of passports that have been issued, for example, where the Passport Office has issued a passport in error to a child born in Ireland but who did not qualify for nationality at birth as a parent was not an Irish national and/or did not fulfil the necessary residence criteria prior to the child's birth. Although there is an appeal procedure, there is no explicit safeguard to protect against statelessness pending the conclusion of the legal process.
  • If a person receives notice of intended deprivation of nationality, they can apply for an Inquiry, which is referred to a Committee of Inquiry, which in turn reports its findings to the Minister for Justice and Equality. This procedure has been criticised for lacking due process and due course of law and the Irish Supreme Court recently ruled that the current procedure is unconstitutional.
  • There is no explicit safeguard preventing statelessness in cases of renunciation or voluntary loss, the provision envisages that Irish nationality does not cease until the person has become a national of another country.
  • There are no provisions on deprivation of nationality for national security purposes.
  • The provisions on deprivation of nationality affect only naturalised Irish nationals, not Irish nationals by birth, so are considered discriminatory.

Resources

Library of resources, legal instruments, publications and training materials on statelessness, specifically relevant to this country. More regional and international materials, as well as resources from other countries, are available on the Resources library. Domestic case law can be consulted in the Statelessness Case Law Database (with summaries available in English).

Please note that we are in the process of adding new resources, so check back soon.

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