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.
Robin van Oene, ASKV