Italy’s record on accession to relevant human rights instruments is relatively good, although it has not acceded to the European Convention on Nationality and it retains a reservation to the 1954 Convention. Some data on people recognised as stateless residing in Italy is publicly available, but the stateless population has not been comprehensively mapped and figures on stateless refugees and detainees are not routinely published. The Italian system provides two possibilities for determining statelessness: an administrative procedure and a judicial one. Access is somewhat limited, particularly in the administrative procedure, and the burden of proof lies with the applicant in the administrative procedure. For the judicial procedure, recent case law reaffirmed that the burden of proof on the applicant is mitigated. There are procedural safeguards in the judicial procedure but few in the administrative one. Protection during both procedures is also limited although there are appeal rights. People granted statelessness status have a range of rights, including to residence, work, social security, healthcare and education.
However, there are gaps in safeguards against the arbitrary detention of stateless people, including no requirement for a country of removal to be identified prior to detention and no formal mechanism to refer detainees to a procedure to determine statelessness. While there is no explicit obligation to release a person when there is no reasonable prospect of removal, a re-examination of detention may be asked any time. Statelessness is not expressly considered as a vulnerability factor and is not considered in practice in decisions to detain. There are relatively strong procedural safeguards in the law, but practical barriers hamper access to these. Protections on release are minimal and re-detention is a risk.
There are safeguards in law to prevent statelessness, including a reduced residency requirement for naturalisation, safeguards for otherwise stateless children born in Italy, and children born to Italians abroad; but there are issues with how provisions are implemented in practice. Birth registration is assured in law and practice, though late registration may require a court procedure, children of same-sex couples may face challenges in registering both parents in their birth certificate, and there are reported issues of children being assigned a presumed nationality at birth. There is a recognised risk of statelessness among Roma populations in Italy, and structures to address it have been established through the new National Strategy for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma and Sinti 2021-2030. Provisions for the deprivation of Italian nationality could lead to statelessness.
Daniela Di Rado, Consiglio Italiano per i Rifugiati (CIR) and Alberto Pasquero, Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione (ASGI) (on Detention Theme)