Update from June 2022:
UNHCR reported 107 stateless people in Ireland in 2020. A census was due to be carried out in 2021, but this was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled for April 2023. The census form includes an option to answer 'no citizenship' to the question on what nationality a person holds.
In October 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the procedure to deprive naturalised Irish nationals of their nationality was unconstitutional, stating that the process must provide minimum procedural safeguards. However, since the judgment, there has been no change to Ministerial powers in this regard and very limited information is published by the Department of Justice.
In June 2022, the Supreme Court found that a refugee declaration remains in force until such time as it is revoked so a child born in Ireland to a father resident in Ireland as a refugee but whose refugee status has been revoked after the child’s birth is still entitled to Irish citizenship.
A regularisation scheme opened for six months between January and July 2022 to undocumented migrants who have spent at least four years living in Ireland without immigration status, or three years if they are with children, which may have benefited some stateless people or those at risk of statelessness living in Ireland in the absence of a formal Statelessness Determination Procedure. The scheme required identity to be proven with reference to a specific list of documents that may have excluded stateless persons, but there have been no reports of stateless people seeking support to prove their identity in order to access the scheme.
There is a pending case before the Irish Supreme Court on nationality rights of surrogate children, which was heard in June 2022. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission acted as amicus curiae.
New resources on Ireland now available include:
- 2021 Statelessness Index Survey
- Country briefing on access to protection for stateless refugees from Ukraine in Ireland
- Joint submission on Ireland to the 39th session of the Universal Periodic Review (March 2021)
- Damache v Minister for Justice  ISEC 63 on the unconstitutionality of the revocation procedure
- Irish Supreme Court case (U.M. v Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade and Passport Appeals Officer David Barry (2 June 2022)) on child’s right to a nationality; see case summary and read more about this case here
- Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Addresses Citizenship Rights of Surrogate Children in Supreme Court Case A, B and C v. the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (June 2022)
The legal and policy framework in Ireland has some positive aspects and some significant gaps. Although State Party to the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions, Ireland has not fully incorporated their provisions into domestic law, and it is not a 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 deprivation, renunciation, and loss of Irish nationality.
Information below by theme was last updated in March 2021.
Catherine Cosgrave, Immigrant Council of Ireland