Malta provides very limited protection for stateless people. Although it is party to some relevant international and regional human rights treaties, it is not party to any of the core statelessness conventions. Maltese law provides some protections against arbitrary detention, but rights afforded to those detained for removal purposes are very limited. Malta has no mechanism to identify and determine statelessness, and no stateless protection status, although it did introduce a new route to regularisation in 2018 for people refused asylum and unable to leave the country, who have lived in Malta for more than five years. Data on the stateless population is therefore limited, with figures available only for the very small number of stateless people who acquire Maltese citizenship, and refused asylum seekers recorded as ‘nationality not known’ who cannot be returned and may or may not be stateless.
There are some safeguards in Maltese law to prevent statelessness, but implementation is problematic and there are some key gaps. The law prevents statelessness in cases of adopted children and new-born foundlings whose parents remain unidentified. There is a provision granting children born stateless on the territory a conditional right to acquire nationality following five years’ legal residence, but, although in line with the 1961 Convention, the provision does not prevent statelessness in all cases and is not currently implemented in practice. Discriminatory provisions in both law and practice relating to conferral of nationality by descent (ius sanguinis) remain in force despite a European Court of Human Rights judgement ruling against Malta on this matter in 2011.
Neil Falzon, aditus foundation