Romania

Romania’s accession record to relevant human rights treaties is generally good, but it retains some reservations to the 1954 Convention which impact on procedural rights for stateless people. Data on the stateless population in Romania is available, but published figures are unreliable, as only stateless people with a residence permit are recorded, and no data is available on the population at risk of statelessness.

Romania has transposed the 1954 Convention definition of a stateless person into domestic law. However, it does not have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure leading to protection status. There is no obligation for the competent authority to consider a claim of statelessness, and no available information for stateless people to claim their rights under the 1954 Convention. Statelessness is not considered juridically relevant in detention decisions, and UNHCR has expressed concern about vulnerability assessments in the context of immigration detention.

On the prevention and reduction of statelessness, Romanian law demonstrates significant gaps. There is no safeguard in Romanian nationality law for otherwise stateless children born in Romania to acquire nationality. Foundlings acquire Romanian nationality automatically by law but there are administrative barriers and there is a risk of statelessness if parentage is later established. Children born to Romanian nationals abroad are automatically Romanian by law, but births must be registered and there have been reports of discriminatory practice.  Access to birth registration has improved in recent years, but there is no procedure to determine a child’s nationality and certain children continue to face discriminatory barriers to registration, including refugees, Roma, and children in rainbow families. Naturalised Romanians may be deprived of their nationality on various grounds, including national security, and there is no safeguard to prevent statelessness.

Last updated: 
Jan 2022
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2023
Country expert(s): 

Stefan Leonescu, Jesuit Refugee Service

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.

Romania is State Party to most of the relevant international and regional instruments, including the 1954 and 1961 Conventions and the European Convention on Nationality. However, it retains minor reservations to the European Convention on Nationality, and significant reservations to the 1954 Convention, which impact on the rights of stateless people in the country. Romania has not acceded to the Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession, nor the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

  • Romania is State Party to the 1954 Convention and the Convention has direct effect; however, it retains significant reservations.
  • Romania reserves the right to grant public relief only to stateless refugees (Article 23), to grant identity papers only to stateless people with a residence permit (Article 27), and to expel a stateless person staying lawfully on the territory if they commit a criminal offence (Article 31).
  • Romania is State Party to the 1961 Convention with no reservations and it has direct effect.
  • Romania is State Party to the European Convention on Nationality with minor reservations. It has not acceded to the Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • Romania is State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights and all other relevant international instruments without reservations, except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Romania is also bound by the EU Return Directive and has fully transposed its provisions into domestic law.

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 sufficient measures in place to count stateless persons in detention.

Some data on the stateless population in Romania is available in the national data collection system, which has a specific ‘stateless’ category based on the census. The General Inspectorate for Immigration also records figures for the number of stateless people holding residence permits, as well as some potentially overlapping categories, including ‘unknown nationality’. However, statelessness has not been mapped in Romania, data on stateless people held in immigration detention is collected but not published, there is no official data on the population at risk of statelessness, and the lack of a statelessness determination procedure results in confusion about who is recorded as stateless and on what grounds.

  • There is a ‘stateless’ category in the Romanian national data collection system. The last census in 2021 recorded 54 stateless people with permanent or temporary residence in the country. The previous census in 2002 had recorded 32 stateless people.
  • The General Inspectorate for Immigration records the number of stateless people issued with residence permits in Romania (302 in January-November 2021). Data is also available on the top 16 countries of origin of refugees and migrants and the remainder are disaggregated by region. There is also an ‘unknown’ category in which very few cases per year are reported. At the end of April 2021, the General Inspectorate for Immigration and UNHCR reported 287 stateless people (113 women and 174 men) officially registered in Romania, disaggregated by State of birth/former residence, which included: Romania (83), Syria (74), Greece (32), Lebanon (19), Kuwait (14), Palestine (13), Israel (10), Jordan (4), Saudi Arabia (4), and EAU (4). 127 people had permanent residence, 94 a form of international protection, 12 were family members, 7 held a permit for study, 1 held a work visa, and 35 held a permit for other purposes.
  • The stateless population in Romania has not been mapped. UNHCR reported 275 stateless people in Romania (including refugees) at the end of 2020 in its Global Trends Report.
  • There are no official records on the population at risk of statelessness (for example, Romani people lacking legal identity) nor stateless people without residence status. Statelessness may also be hidden in the data if people have been attributed a nationality by officials, for example, Palestinians who enter Romania with travel documents from another country or who apply for asylum, or children born in Romania to parents whose countries of nationality require a procedure to confer nationality to the child, but they are unaware or unable to complete the procedure.
  • Some data on stateless people held in immigration detention in Romania is recorded, but this is not published. The General Inspectorate of Immigration also collects some data on the number of people granted tolerated stay following release from detention or application of alternatives to detention.
  • Due to the lack of a statelessness determination procedure, there can be confusion about who is recorded as stateless and on what grounds. Sometimes detainees are attributed the nationality of a country of destination for the purposes of removal. There are reports that two stateless people were held in detention in 2021, whilst in 2020, 249 persons were granted tolerated stay.

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 procedure (SDP) leading to a dedicated stateless status. If an SDP is not place, it assesses whether there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified or other routes through which stateless people could regularise their stay or access their rights. Countries are subdivided in three groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP leading to protection, those with other procedures, and those with a stateless status but no clear mechanism to access protection. The existing procedures and rights granted to stateless persons are examined and assessed against international norms and good practice.

The 1954 Convention has been transposed into Romanian law, so although the Law on Foreigners includes a narrower definition of a stateless person, the 1954 Convention definition applies in practice. There is no statelessness determination procedure leading to a dedicated statelessness status. Statelessness may be identified during asylum or tolerated stay procedures, but there is no obligation on authorities to determine a claim of statelessness. Free legal aid and interpreting are available, and general procedural safeguards apply. However, rights granted are not based on statelessness, but rather the person’s residence or international protection status. Stateless people who qualify for a residence permit, international protection or tolerated stay will be issued with identity documents, but statelessness is not a priority category for access to social housing. The right to vote is reserved to Romanian nationals only.

  • Romania has transposed the 1954 Convention into domestic law, so the Convention definition of a stateless person and exclusion provisions apply.
  • The 2002 Law on Foreigners (adopted prior to accession) defines a stateless person as "a person who does not have the citizenship of any State", which is narrower than the 1954 Convention, but in practice, the courts apply the Convention definition.
  • Some ad hoc training on statelessness is provided to national authorities, lawyers, and NGOs by UNHCR and ENS members. However, there is no formal training on statelessness for competent authorities, lawyers, or the judiciary.
  • There is no statelessness determination procedure leading to a dedicated statelessness status in Romania, but there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified.
  • Statelessness may come up as a legally relevant fact in procedures requiring the determination of nationality, but none of them are tailored to make a determination of statelessness nor lead to protection on the grounds of statelessness. Statelessness may be identified during asylum, return, or border procedures.
  • In the asylum procedure, statelessness is considered based on statements provided when submitting an application and may be further assessed during the substantive interview.
  • Stateless people may be granted a tolerated stay permit in the context of return proceedings. This may be considered in the case of refused asylum-seekers who declared themselves to be stateless at the beginning of the asylum procedure and if the country of origin or former residence does not recognise the person’s nationality (although no cases have been encountered recently).
  • Statelessness can be considered during border procedures if a person declares themselves to be stateless.
  • The competent authority in Romania is the General Inspectorate for Immigration (asylum, return & toleration procedures), or the General Inspectorate of Border Police (border procedures).
  • There is no obligation to consider a claim of statelessness nor is any information available for stateless people about how to claim their rights under the 1954 Convention and/or be identified as stateless.
  • Whilst there is cooperation between State agencies, this is not specifically for the purposes of identifying stateless people.
  • In the asylum procedure, the burden of proof is shared between the authorities and the applicant. In return procedures, according to the law, the burden lies mostly with the authorities but, in practice, a person with irregular residence status should provide details on their identity to shorten their stay in detention. In all cases, the individual has an obligation to cooperate and take all reasonable measures to obtain documents.
  • There is no guidance for decision-makers on the identification of statelessness, but in the case of asylum procedures, the confidentiality principle is strictly observed.
  • Free legal aid and interpreting are available to stateless people on the same basis as other foreigners, although free interpreting is usually only granted during procedures before the competent authorities.
  • General procedural safeguards are in place for applicants in the asylum procedure as well as in return procedures. These include communication of written decisions with reasons, rights of appeal, and specific time limits. The right to an interview is specifically provided during asylum procedures and is optional in the administrative phase of return procedures and in all court proceedings.
  • No rights are granted to stateless people on the basis of their statelessness. Rights depend on a person’s respective status as an asylum-seeker, person with irregular residence status, person with a tolerated stay permit, or person granted another form of international protection or residence.
  • Stateless people who qualify for a residence permit, international protection or tolerated stay will be issued with identity documents.
  • Stateless people are not mentioned as a priority category for access to social housing.
  • Stateless people holding a residence permit or international protection have the right to family reunification.
  • The right to vote is reserved to Romanian nationals only.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, but focusing on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as the identification of statelessness and assessment of whether there is a reasonable prospect of removal, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight, and effective remedies, as well as the rights granted to stateless people upon release from detention and protection against re-detention.

Statelessness is not considered juridically relevant in decisions to detain and stateless people are at risk of detention in Romania. Alternatives to detention are only applied where there are no grounds for detention. There is a definition of vulnerability in Romanian law, but statelessness is not considered to be a factor increasing vulnerability. People held in detention have the right to legal, medical, and social assistance as well as to communicate with diplomatic and legal representatives as well as family members, and legal representatives, with also a right to appeal within 5 days. Upon release, persons are issued with identity documents and a tolerated stay permit. In some cases, tolerated stay identity documents state that the person is ‘stateless’. This is subject to conditions for toleration, and may be subject to re-detention as a sanction, which is contrary to EU standards. Return agreements do not distinguish between them and third-country nationals.

  • Romanian law has transposed the EU Return Directive. The Law on Foreigners regulates detention and removal. The Asylum Law regulates the detention of asylum-seekers (although there has only been one case in the last five years).
  • Tolerated stay is considered in the law as an 'alternative to detention' but is only granted where there are no grounds for detention, so is not applied as an alternative.
  • Stateless people subject to removal are likely to be detained whilst steps are taken towards removal. Three stateless people were detained between January-November 2021.
  • A proposed country of removal must be identified prior to detention. If there is a change to the country of removal, justification must be provided to the court when requesting an extension. If removal under escort is no longer possible, the person must be released and tolerated stay is granted.
  • Statelessness is not juridically relevant in decisions to detain. Statelessness may be identified following repeated refusals by a proposed country of return to recognise an individual, which may sometimes lead to release from detention.
  • There is a definition of vulnerability in law, but statelessness is not defined or considered to be a factor increasing vulnerability. Vulnerability assessments are carried out, but UNHCR has expressed concern about vulnerability not being sufficiently identified or considered in detention decisions.
  • The maximum length of detention is 18 months, which is strictly observed.
  • Detention must be ordered in writing and reasoned in law and fact.
  • There is a right to legal, medical, and social assistance, as well as communication with diplomatic and legal representatives, and family members. Regular free legal assistance and information is provided in detention facilities by NGOs. However, no information is available for stateless people in detention on how to claim their rights under the 1954 Convention nor are there any guidelines governing the process of re-documentation and ascertaining entitlement to nationality.
  • Detainees have the right to lodge a complaint before the court within five days of the detention being ordered, and the decision should be issued within three days. However, few appeals are submitted in practice. It is possible to request the General Inspectorate for Immigration review the feasibility of removal, and to challenge their decision in court. Detention orders must be reviewed by the General Inspectorate every three months, or every month in the case of families with minors.
  • People released from detention are issued with identity documents and a tolerated stay permit. In some cases, tolerated stay identity documents state that the person is ‘stateless’. However, if the person breaches the conditions for tolerated stay, they may be subject to re-detention as a sanction.
  • People granted tolerated stay have access to a personal ID number and the right to work in line with nationals. People released from detention can access basic support, including accommodation.
  • Bilateral readmission or return agreements entered into by Romania generally reference stateless people but do not distinguish between them and third-country nationals.
  • A bilateral agreement was signed between Romania and Germany in 1998 to take back people who had renounced their nationality and remained stateless. A few hundred people have been returned under this agreement.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including facilitated routes to naturalisation for stateless people, and 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, and reduction measures taken by States to prevent and reduce in situ statelessness. Analyses provisions on deprivation of nationality and whether there are safeguards related to renunciation and deprivation of nationality to prevent statelessness from occurring.

There are significant gaps in Romanian law, policy and practice for the prevention and reduction of statelessness. Naturalisation is not facilitated or expedited for stateless migrants. There is no safeguard in nationality law for children born stateless in Romania, so their only option is to apply for naturalisation alongside their parents, subject to the general criteria. Foundlings are granted nationality by law but may face practical obstacles and there is a risk of statelessness if parentage is later established. Children born to Romanian nationals abroad are automatically Romanian by law, but births must be registered and there have been reports of discriminatory practice.  Access to birth registration has improved in recent years, but there is no procedure to determine a child’s nationality and certain children continue to face discriminatory barriers to registration, including refugees, Roma, and children in rainbow families. Naturalised Romanians may be deprived of their nationality on various grounds, including national security, and there is no safeguard to prevent statelessness.

  • Stateless people acquire the right to apply for naturalisation after eight years of lawful residence, which is not expedited compared to other foreigners. The timeframe is reduced to four years for refugees and other categories, but there is no reduction for stateless people.
  • There are no other exemptions for stateless people from general naturalisation requirements, which include having means of subsistence, knowledge of language and culture, and integration requirements. There is no fee for naturalisation for adults or children.
  • There are good character requirements for naturalisation, including proof of loyalty to the Romanian State, national security grounds, and ‘good conduct’.
  • There is no safeguard in Romanian nationality law for children born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless.
  • The only option for a stateless child born on the territory is to apply for naturalisation alongside their parent/s if they can meet the general conditions set out in the law.
  • There are no specific provisions to protect the right to a nationality of children born to refugees.
  • Foundlings are granted nationality automatically by law. However, certain administrative conditions must be met in practice to establish the identity of the child and issue a birth certificate.
  • There is no specific age limit in the foundlings provision, so the limit is 18 years old.
  • The law provides that a foundling loses Romanian nationality if filiation is established to one or both parents before the child is 18 and if the parent/s are foreign nationals. There is no explicit safeguard to prevent statelessness and no jurisprudence. The authorities state that they consider potential situations of statelessness but, in the absence of a legal safeguard, there is a risk of statelessness.
  • A child is considered to have lost their Romanian nationality only from the date they acquire the adoptive parent/s nationality. The child’s consent is required if they are over 14. If the adoption is annulled, the child (if under 18) will be regarded as never having lost Romanian nationality.
  • A foreign child adopted by national parents acquires nationality if both parents are Romanian. If only one parent is Romanian, both must agree on the child's nationality. If they cannot agree, the court will decide taking into consideration the child's best interests. A risk of statelessness may occur for children residing abroad (or who leave the country for permanent residence abroad) if the adoption is annulled or cancelled as a child under 18 would be considered never to have been a Romanian national.
  • Children born abroad to Romanian nationals are automatically Romanian by law.
  • There are no additional criteria in the Law on Citizenship, but the Law on Civil Status sets out a procedure to be undertaken to issue the birth certificate and register the birth of a child born abroad. In practice, children whose births were registered abroad must transcribe their civil status documents into the Romanian registries through a request to the consular authorities where the child was born or through transcription of foreign civil status certificates in Romania.
  • There have been cases reported in the past of children in some countries facing difficulties to register their births and be recognised as nationals. Finally, children of same-sex parents will not be registered in the registries.
  • Universal birth registration is guaranteed by law and all children should be issued with birth certificates. Rules introduced in 2016 have facilitated the procedure for those unable to present identity documents, allowing identity to be confirmed through statements by competent authorities.
  • Births must be registered within 15 days, after which approval of the mayor is required. After one year, registration is only possible through a court procedure, which involves verification of the child’s identity, age, and sex. Legal aid is not available for people who are unregistered, and a medico-legal assessment is required, which incurs a fee for adults. The age-assessment process is reportedly unpleasant and uncomfortable, which may deter people from accessing the procedure. The procedure is even more difficult (if not impossible) for people who were not born in medical facilities and do not have a medical certificate of birth.
  • There is no field for ‘Nationality’ on the birth certificate, but there is a separate section for ‘Mentiuni’ (‘Mentions’, or annotations) where authorities will add information about the country of nationality or statelessness of the child. In practice, this is completed based on the parents’ statements and identity documents, but no verification is conducted as regards the actual possibility of the child to acquire the nationality of one of the parents.
  • There are credible reports that some children are prevented from registering in practice because of their parents’ migration, residence or documentation status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Cases have been reported of children born to refugees being refused birth certificates due to being unable to provide a passport from their home country. A small number of cases continue to be reported where delays in registration occur due to misinterpretation of legal provisions or gaps in the regulations for some parents.
  • There is no legal obligation on the authorities to report people who are undocumented or have irregular residence status but there is no clear firewall to prohibit the sharing of information with immigration authorities.
  • The Romanian Government does not have any programmes in place to promote civil registration, although it introduced rules in 2016 to facilitate birth registration by undocumented parents.
  • Specific groups are at risk of statelessness in Romania. Many Roma children and young adults remain unregistered at birth and must undergo the complex court procedure to register later in life. The risk is heightened for children born to parents who themselves are undocumented, which perpetuates lack of legal identity and risk of statelessness.
  • Romania has not made pledges to address statelessness under UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign. There have been no recent efforts to address gaps in the legal framework for the protection of stateless persons and prevention and reduction of statelessness.
  • Provisions in Romanian law permit deprivation of nationality on various grounds, including nationality security, and there is no legal safeguard to prevent statelessness arising. In practice, there has been at least one case (in 2013) where the authorities took into consideration the 1961 Convention and analysed the risk of an individual becoming stateless because of being deprived of their Romanian nationality.
  • The competent authority for deprivation of Romanian nationality is the National Authority for Citizenship. A hearing takes place, and the individual is summoned at least six months before the hearing, but their absence does not prevent a deprivation decision from being made. Views of relevant competent authorities and any person who can provide useful information are invited before the hearing. An appeal may be lodged before the Court of Appeal within 15 days of the decision. Legal aid is available.
  • Statelessness is not mentioned in provisions on renunciation of nationality. However, as renunciation is only permitted if the individual has acquired another nationality or has applied to obtain it and received assurance they will obtain it, the risk is limited.
  • Provisions on deprivation of nationality are discriminatory, as only naturalised nationals may be deprived of their Romanian nationality.
  • In most cases, deprivation and renunciation do not affect the spouse or children of the individual, but if both parents renounce their nationality and the child moves abroad, the child will lose their Romanian nationality.

Resources

Library of resources, legal instruments, publications and training materials on statelessness, specifically relevant to this country. More regional and international materials, as well as resources from other countries, are available on the Resources library. Domestic case law can be consulted in the Statelessness Case Law Database (with summaries available in English).

Please note that we are in the process of adding new resources, so check back soon.

Project funded by:Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung