Norway

Law, policy and practice on statelessness in Norway is mixed. The state is party to relevant regional and international human rights instruments, including all the core statelessness treaties; and some data and mapping of the stateless population exists. However, this is limited by the lack of a definition of a stateless person and a dedicated procedure to determine statelessness and grant stateless people protection under Norwegian law in line with its international obligations. There are other administrative procedures through which statelessness can be identified, including when applying for international protection, travel documents or citizenship, but no rights or legal status in Norway stem from being recognised as stateless.

There are some protections and relatively strong procedural safeguards against the arbitrary detention of stateless people in Norway, but detention is possible without identifying a country of removal, alternatives are not routinely applied, and cases of stateless people being returned to countries where they have no residence rights have been reported in practice. Norway also has relatively strong safeguards to prevent and reduce statelessness, which were further strengthened through a government instruction in 2016 to prevent childhood statelessness, but there are some remaining legal gaps. Birth registration law and practice is good and although withdrawal of nationality is possible, safeguards against statelessness exist in most cases.

Last updated: 
Feb 2019
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2020
Country expert(s): 

Additional resources

ASSESSMENT KEY

++POSITIVE
+ SOMEWHAT POSITIVE
+-POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
- SOMEWHAT NEGATIVE
--NEGATIVE

ADDITIONAL INFO

-NORMS & GOOD PRACTICE

 

International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are state party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

Norway is state party to all four of the core statelessness conventions: the 1954 Convention, the 1961 Convention, the European Convention on Nationality, and the European Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession. It is also party to all other relevant regional and international instruments except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. It retains some reservations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights, but these do not have a substantive impact on statelessness.

  • Norway is state party to the 1954 Convention with no reservations and direct effect.
  • Norway is state party to the 1961 Convention with no reservations and the Convention has direct effect.
  • Norway is state party to the European Convention on Nationality with no reservations, though it does have an interpretative declaration in place.
  • Norway is state party to or bound by all other relevant regional and international instruments except for the Convention on Migrant Workers, which it has not signed.
  • Some reservations are in place to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights, but these do not have a substantive impact on statelessness.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are effective measures in place to count stateless people in detention.

Norway collects and holds disaggregated data on its stateless population and some qualitative and quantitative analysis of statelessness in the country is available, including through a mapping study. However, the available data is somewhat unreliable as there is no definition of a stateless person in Norwegian law, nor any statelessness determination procedure. Norwegian authorities collect, hold and publish some disaggregated data on detention, but no public information is provided on the nationality status of detainees.

  • Norway collects disaggregated data on the stateless population in its national statistics and immigration data - the latest figure reports 2425 stateless people in the country.
  • Qualitative and quantitative analysis of statelessness is available, and statelessness has been mapped by UNHCR in the Norwegian context.
  • UNHCR estimates the population to be 3251 based on official data provided by the government.
  • However, there are issues with the reliability of the data since there is no definition of a stateless person in national law, no SDP, and stateless persons without legal residence are not counted in the statistics.
  • Data on stateless refugees reports that 67 stateless persons applied for asylum in 2018 (Jan-Sept); and in 2015 88% of asylum claims made by people recorded as stateless were granted refugee protection.
  • Norwegian authorities collect, hold and publish some disaggregated data on the number of ‘detentions’ (insettelser) in Norway, but no public information is provided on the nationality status of detainees.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination (SDP) procedure; or, if not, whether there are other procedures or mechanisms by which statelessness can be identified and legal status determined. Countries are subdivided in four groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP in place, those with other administrative procedures, those with a status but no clear mechanism, and those without any status or mechanism. Where a procedure and status exist, these are assessed against norms and good practice, and the rights granted to recognised stateless persons are examined.

Norway does not have a statelessness determination procedure, but there are other administrative procedures through which statelessness can be identified, including when applying for international protection, travel documents or citizenship. However, there is no obligation on the authorities to identify or determine statelessness and no training to assist them to do so. If statelessness is determined, the burden of proof in the procedure is shared, but the standard of proof is higher than in the asylum procedure. No rights or legal status in Norway stem from a person being determined to be stateless, although it is possible to acquire a residence permit on humanitarian grounds due to impossibility of return, which may entitle the holder to the right to work and family reunification.

  • There is no definition of a stateless person in Norwegian law, although preparatory works to recent legislative amendments have referred to the 1954 Convention definition.
  • The Nationality Act contains an exclusion clause from facilitated naturalisation for anyone who has 'chosen to be stateless, or who in a simple way can become a national of another country’.
  • There is no Statelessness Determination Procedure in Norway.
  • There are administrative procedures through which statelessness can be identified, including when applying for international protection, travel documents and citizenship.
  • There are administrative procedures through which statelessness can be identified, including when applying for international protection, travel documents and citizenship, but determining statelessness is not a specific objective of any of these procedures and it may not occur in all cases.
  • There are no specific procedures to which to refer stateless persons. Statelessness may be determined in the course of an assessment of nationality or 'home country' for the purposes of deciding an international protection claim, citizenship application, or application for travel documents.
  • There is little cooperation between competent authorities and no known training on statelessness, nor instructions or guidance.
  • There is no obligation in law on the authorities to determine statelessness
  • The burden of proof is shared in asylum procedures and other administrative procedures.
  • The standard of proof to determine statelessness is higher than in asylum cases.
  • Free legal aid is normally available to asylum seekers to challenge a first instance decision, but it is not available for any of the other procedures through which statelessness may be determined.
  • An interview is guaranteed in the asylum procedure but not in the other procedures.
  • Where a request is made to the Immigration Appeals Board to re-examine an asylum refusal where return has not been possible, and this is heard before a board, the right to appear in person is usually granted.
  • An interpreter is provided free of charge only in the asylum procedure. No free interpreter is provided for the purposes of applying for travel documents or citizenship.
  • Decisions are given in writing with reasons, but the Immigration Appeals Board is not required to specify reasons where re-examination is considered manifestly unfounded except in certain special circumstances.
  • Neither juridical status nor any rights follow automatically form the sole fact of determining statelessness in an individual case in Norway.
  • A residence permit granted on the grounds of impossibility of return may be granted on humanitarian grounds, which has rights and entitlements attached to it, including the right to work and family reunification (provided an income requirement is met).
  • The permitholder is usually eligible for settlement assistance and must participate in a municipal induction programme (full-time qualification programme adapted to the individual’s needs usually lasting up to two years) in which language training is provided as well as an introductory form of social security that may satisfy the income requirement for family reunification.
  • The permit is temporary and normally valid for three years but enables an application for a permanent residence permit once additional criteria are met.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, focusing in on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as detention decision-making, whether alternatives to detention are legislated for and implemented, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight and effective remedies, as well as protections on release and whether statelessness is considered juridically relevant in bilateral return and readmission agreements.

Protection against the arbitrary detention of stateless people in Norway is mixed. Powers for detention, alternatives to detention and procedural protections are established in law, but there are some gaps. For example, detention is possible without identifying a proposed country of removal, and although consideration of alternatives should form part of a necessity and proportionality test, it is not set in law that detention should be a last resort after exploring all alternatives. There is a maximum time limit, automatic judicial oversight, and a right to legal representation and remedies. However, in practice, lawyers’ time with clients is limited and many lack expertise on statelessness. Basic rights and protections are provided on release for people who claim asylum, but not for others, and these do not protect from re-detention, although cumulative time spent in detention does count towards the maximum time limit. Statelessness is not juridically relevant in readmission or return agreements and lawyers have reported cases of stateless people being returned under such agreements to countries where they have no residence rights.

  • Powers for immigration detention in Norway are provided for in law and are arguably restricted to grounds provided for in ECHR 5(1)(f).
  • There is no requirement in law for a country of removal to be identified prior to detention.
  • Statelessness could be considered juridically relevant if established as a barrier to removal and/or raised in a judicial proceeding to challenge continued detention.
  • There is no requirement in law that detention is a last resort after all alternatives have been explored, but rather that alternatives form part of a necessity and proportionality test.
  • Statistics show that stateless people are forcibly removed from Norway to countries of former residence, for example, in Jan-Sept 2018, 67 stateless people were forcibly removed.
  • An assessment of vulnerability is carried out by the immigration police as part of the necessity and proportionality test prior to detention, but there are no specific guidelines on vulnerability assessment.
  • There is an obligation in law to consider alternatives which are set in law and subject to a time limit and proportionality test.
  • Alternatives set in law are reporting and designating a place of stay, which can be combined with seizure of travel documents and/or material possessions.
  • Further alternatives are currently under consideration including for families and minors, and electronic tagging.
  • There is a maximum time limit set in law for immigration detention in line with EU law - 18 months. However, the time limit does not apply in cases of national security and where a person is subject to expulsion following a criminal conviction.
  • The law provides that reasons for detention must be given in writing, a decision to detain must be submitted for a court decision by the police within 72hrs, the decision must give reasons in fact and law justifying the detention decision, including with regards to proportionality.
  • Detainees are automatically allocated a legal representative and provided with information on their rights in writing including contact details of support organisations.
  • An automatic judicial review takes place every 4 weeks (every 3 days in the case of children), and if removal is judged to be impossible within a timeframe, the person is released. However, that timeframe can be very long. An oral hearing takes place at each review and the detainee is legally represented.
  • However, the actual benefit of automatic legal representation in practice is questionable as lawyers have little time with their client in advance of the hearing and may not have expertise on statelessness.
  • There are no rules or guidance in place on the process of ascertaining/determining nationality.
  • No automatic legal status or residence right is granted on release from detention.
  • For all those who have requested asylum (irrespective of the outcome of the claim) accommodation at asylum reception centres, basic subsistence and access to emergency healthcare is provided until they leave the country or secure legal residence.
  • In practice, most stateless people with irregular status apply for asylum and so can access these basic rights if refused protection and/or released from detention; however, this does not protect them from re-detention.
  • Cumulative time spent in detention does count towards the maximum time limit but if there are new grounds for detention, it may be extended beyond the maximum time limit.
  • Statelessness is not considered juridically relevant in readmission/return agreements and stateless people are returned in practice under these agreements.
  • In practice, lawyers are aware of stateless people without residence rights in the country of return being returned under readmission/return agreements.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, reduction measures taken by states to prevent statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions regarding withdrawal of nationality.

Norway has relatively strong safeguards in law and policy to prevent and reduce statelessness. There is a non-automatic provision in the Nationality Act that provides a conditional route to naturalisation for stateless children and adults. An instruction issued by the Government in 2016 requires this to be applied in line with the 1961 Convention in the case of people born stateless in Norway. However, the Instruction is not set in law and is therefore only binding on first instance decision-makers, not the appeals body. There are provisions in law to prevent statelessness in adoption cases, and foundlings acquire citizenship automatically, although there may be a risk of statelessness if the origin of a foundling is later established. Birth registration takes place regardless of the status of the parents, late registration is possible, and there are no reports of specific groups being at risk of remaining unregistered. Withdrawal of nationality is not possible if it leads to statelessness, except in the case of misinterpretation or fraud and it is currently being considered whether such cases should be subject to judicial review.

  • The Norwegian Nationality Act contains a naturalisation provision, which constitutes a non-automatic safeguard applicable to all stateless people, minors and adults, irrespective of whether they were born in Norway, provided that certain requirements are met.
  • A Government Instruction issued in 2016 requires this safeguard to be applied in line with the 1961 Convention setting out additional exemptions for anyone born stateless in Norway, including the requirement only for three years' 'continuous factual residence' rather than lawful residence.
  • Although the Instruction is legally binding for the Immigration Directorate in first instance decisions, it is not set in law and therefore not binding for the appeals body, which can lead to an application being refused on appeal based on the child not having legal residence.
  • Foundlings are granted citizenship automatically by law.
  • Nationality acquired by foundlings can only be lost if 'the correct origin of the child becomes known', but it can be withdrawn even if the child would be become stateless. The child would then have to apply for naturalisation under the Nationality Act and 2016 Instruction safeguard as a stateless child born in Norway.
  • There is no specific age limit on the foundling provision.
  • A Norwegian child adopted by foreign parents does not lose their Norwegian citizenship on adoption.
  • A foreign child adopted by a Norwegian parent acquires Norwegian nationality and keeps that nationality even if the adoption decision is revoked if they would otherwise be stateless.
  • A child born to a Norwegian national acquires Norwegian nationality irrespective of the place of birth and there are no discriminatory conditions.
  • Every birth in Norway must be registered regardless of the immigration status of the parents
  • There are no reports of barriers to birth registration for undocumented parents or those with irregular immigration status.
  • The doctor or midwife must give birth notification to the National Registry Authority “when a child is born”. If a child is born without any assistance from a doctor or a midwife, the mother of the child has the obligation to notify the national registry “within one month” from the date of birth or, in case the child is born abroad, from the date of arrival to Norway.
  • Late registration is possible in law and practice - nothing suggests that a late registration would not be accepted
  • Nothing suggests that there are groups in Norway at risk of not having their births registered.
  • Some people with a migrant background with and without a residence permit may be at risk of statelessness.
  • The Government issued Instruction G-08/2016 in October 2016 to clarify exemptions applicable to people born stateless in Norway to facilitate their access to the safeguard in Nationality Act to acquire Norwegian nationality.
  • Withdrawal of nationality is established in law and cannot lead to statelessness except in the case where nationality has been acquired by misrepresentation or fraud.
  • All cases of withdrawal on grounds of misrepresentation/fraud are currently on hold as Parliament instructed the Government to draft a law proposal to subject these cases to judicial review.
  • Legislation in force since January 2019 allows courts to deprive people of nationality as part of sentencing in serious criminal/terrorism related cases, but not where this would lead to statelessness.

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