Germany delivers some positive practices on statelessness but areas for reform still remain

30 Jan 2019 / Detention / Germany / International and Regional Instruments / Prevention and reduction / Statelessness determination and status / Statelessness population data

The Statelessness Index assesses and compares how countries in Europe protect stateless people and what they are doing to prevent and reduce statelessness. The European Network on Statelessness has worked with its members to research and compile comparative information in the Index on statelessness in Germany. Helena-Ulrike Marambio, the lead country expert on Germany’s Index profile is a human rights advocate researching issues related to the protection of stateless persons in Europe, and especially in Germany.  

A new briefing developed by the European Network on Statelessness in partnership with its members summarises key findings from the Index data to show that the legal and policy framework on statelessness in Germany has both positive and negative aspects. The briefing is available in both English and German and provides key recommendations for the German Government to improve the protection of stateless people and the reduction and prevention of statelessness.

Summary of key findings and recommendations

Positively, Germany has signed and ratified both the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, but has two significant reservations to the 1954 Convention on travel documents and access to social security. Statistical data in Germany is comprehensive but there are potentially overlapping categories in data sets and statelessness has never been mapped in the German context.

Although statelessness may be determined through certain administrative procedures in Germany such as applications for travel documents, asylum and ‘toleration’ (Duldung), there is no formal statelessness determination procedure or protection status, with existing administrative procedures falling short of standards set out in the UNHCR Handbook on the Protection of Stateless Persons. This lack of formal procedure and protection status, alongside failure to consider statelessness a juridically relevant fact in decisions to detain leaves stateless persons at risk of prolonged, arbitrary detention.

Positively, German law contains safeguards to prevent statelessness, but these safeguards mean that the right to nationality for otherwise stateless children is dependent on either the actions or legal status of the parents or on the child applying for naturalisation before the age of 21 and after five years’ continuous, legal residence. Practical barriers to birth registration due to parents’ missing documents or fear of detention or deportation mean that provisions in German law for universal access to immediate birth registration are not implemented in practice.

The briefing provides a number of recommendations to the German Government, including the withdrawal of the reservations to the 1954 Convention, and taking concrete steps to harmonise and define statistical categories used in data by different agencies and at different levels. It further recommends establishing a dedicated statelessness determination procedure in line with international norms and good practice and using this procedure to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention and prolonged periods of ‘tolerated stay’. It finally suggests amending the law to ensure all children born in Germany who would otherwise be stateless acquire nationality at birth, and to remove all practical barriers to birth registration.

By summarising the key information in the Statelessness Index and providing recommendations for the German Government, this new briefing highlights clear areas for action and reform in law, policy and practice to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect stateless people in Germany.  

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