Update from June 2022:
On 1 January 2021 the Central Statistics Bureau reported 36,267 people who were ‘stateless/nationality unknown’ in the Netherlands, down from 45,947 the year before. The reasons for this decrease are unclear.
There were no major legal or policy reforms in 2021, but the long-discussed legal reforms on statelessness were finally adopted by the Dutch Parliament in May 2022, after many years of concerted advocacy on the part of ENS members and wider civil society in the Netherlands. The 2022 Index update will reflect these changes (available from January 2023). There has also been growing concern over the use of deprivation of nationality as a national security measure in the Netherlands, including through successive legislative amendments that have expanded these powers.
The Netherlands received four recommendations from the CERD Committee in 2021 on naturalisation, discrimination, and deprivation of nationality. It also received five recommendations from the CRC in 2021 on the prevention of statelessness among children and the right to a nationality.
New resources on the Netherlands now available include:
- 2021 Statelessness Index Survey
- Joint submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (May 2021)
- Joint submission to the UN Committee against Torture on the Netherlands (June 2021)
- Joint submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the Netherlands (July 2021)
- Joint submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review on deprivation of nationality in the Netherlands (March 2022)
- Joint submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review on statelessness in the Netherlands (March 2022)
- Policy briefing on risks of childhood statelessness for the children associated with alleged ‘foreign fighters’ detained in Syria and Iraq (October 2021)
- Increasing case law from the Dutch courts on the protection of stateless Palestinians as refugees
- Stories of stateless persons and stateless families in the Netherlands without a residence permit (April 2022)
Positively, The Netherlands is party to most relevant international and regional instruments, but there are some gaps in its domestic legal framework to protect stateless people and prevent statelessness. The definition of a stateless person in Dutch law is narrower than the 1954 Convention, and without a statelessness determination procedure (SDP) or status, there is limited protection for stateless people in the country. Currently statelessness can only be identified through other administrative procedures. If identified, legally residing stateless people are granted a travel document and have access to facilitated naturalisation, but there is no route to protection for those without legal residence. The Dutch Parliament has approved legislation that would establish a judicial procedure to determine statelessness (not yet in force), although it does not lead to a right to reside. Although the law contains some protections and safeguards against arbitrary detention, immigration detention is used in practice, and stateless people without legal residence are at risk of detention.
There are safeguards in Dutch nationality law to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings and adopted children. However, the safeguard for children born stateless in the Netherlands is not automatic. Until recently, it required registration as stateless and three years’ legal residence before a child could acquire nationality, although an amendment to the Dutch Nationality Act approved by Parliament in May 2022 will allow stateless children without legal residence in the Netherlands to opt for Dutch nationality after five years’ of ‘stable and habitual’ residence. Children born to unmarried Dutch fathers and a foreign mother are also disadvantaged. The law provides for universal, immediate birth registration, and all children are issued with birth certificates; but parents without legal residence or who lack key documents may face barriers and the procedure for late birth registration is complex.
Information below by theme was last updated in March 2021.