Latvia has acceded to most relevant human rights instruments and is party to both the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions. Although the stateless population has not been mapped, the Latvian authorities count and publish population data on statelessness, with a ‘stateless’ (bezvalstnieks) category in national statistics. However, this only includes people granted stateless status under the statelessness determination procedure, and 'non-citizens' (nepilsonis) are counted separately. This is because under domestic law, ‘non-citizens’ are excluded from the definition of a ‘stateless person’ as they are considered a separate legal category of persons who enjoy a significant set of rights. Although ‘non-citizens’ are granted rights beyond the minimum prescribed by the statelessness conventions, there are important differences distinguishing non-citizens from citizens as a matter of domestic law, including a lack of political rights and some restrictions on employment and land ownership. Moreover, ‘non-citizens’ in Latvia clearly lack a nationality and therefore meet the definition of a stateless person under international law regardless of any separate legal consideration of whether they should be excluded from protection under the 1954 Convention.
Positively, in the migratory context, Latvia has established a statelessness determination procedure in national law, in line with good practice in many respects, although there are some remaining gaps, including a lack of protection during the procedure, and no facilitated route to naturalisation for people with ‘stateless’ status. There are also gaps in safeguards against the arbitrary detention of stateless people, and alternatives to detention are only applied in a small proportion of cases. Statelessness is prevented for foundlings, adopted children, and children born to Latvian nationals and, since 1 January 2020, children born to ‘non-citizens’ both in Latvia and abroad. Birth registration requires parents to present identity documents, which could leave some children at risk of remaining unregistered. Latvia has taken some steps towards reducing statelessness, including a new law On Terminating the Granting of Non-Citizen Status to Children in 2019, amendments to the Citizenship Law in 2013, and initiatives to provide information and support to ‘non-citizens’ to naturalise. However, around 190,000 people remain stateless with ‘non-citizen’ status in the country. 65% of 'non-citizens' identify as members of the ethnic Russian minority. Among people who identify as ethnic Russians, 65% are citizens of Latvia while 35% remain non-citizens.