Portugal has a relatively good record on accession to relevant human rights instruments, including three of the four core statelessness conventions. Some data on the stateless population is available, but this is limited due to the lack of mechanisms to identify and determine statelessness, inconsistencies in recording, and overlapping data categories. A new census was carried out in 2021, and a brief explanation of the concept ‘stateless’ was included in the questionnaire, but disaggregated results are not available at the time of writing.
There are no procedures through which statelessness can be determined in Portugal nor a stateless protection status established in law.
There are also gaps in protections to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people, and it is likely that some stateless people are detained in practice. However, there are relatively strong procedural safeguards in place and cumulative time spent in detention counts towards the maximum (relatively short) time limit.
Portugal performs well on the prevention and reduction of statelessness, although some improvements could be made. For example, the legal safeguard for otherwise stateless children born on the territory is not necessarily automatic in practice, and the burden of proof in evidencing statelessness lies with the child. However, successive recent amendments to the Nationality Act have broadened the scope for children born in Portugal to foreign parents to acquire nationality at birth. In practice, foundlings acquire nationality by birth, there is no risk of statelessness in adoption procedures, and no discriminatory conditions on the acquisition of nationality by children born to nationals abroad. The registration of all births in Portugal is mandatory and facilitated even if parents cannot prove their identity or miss the registration deadline. Portuguese nationality law contains safeguards to prevent statelessness as a result of deprivation or renunciation of nationality.
Inês Carreirinho (Portuguese Refugee Council), Filipa Godinho (Portuguese Refugee Council), and Rita Santos