Netherlands passes new bills on statelessness, but concerns remain

23 Jun 2023 / Netherlands / Prevention and reduction / Statelessness determination and status

The Netherlands has taken a significant step towards addressing the plight of stateless individuals after years of joined advocacy by ENS members and partners with the adoption of two bills in the Dutch Senate on 6 June 2023, after they were approved in the House of Representatives in May 2022. Civil society organisations have long advocated for the establishment of a statelessness determination procedure (SDP). However, the bills do not go far enough in resolving the issues experienced by stateless people in the Netherlands and much work remains to be done.

The first bill introduces a judicial procedure to determine statelessness, while the second amends various laws, including the Dutch Nationality Act, to allow stateless children without legal residence in the country the possibility of obtaining Dutch nationality. Although hailed as a positive development, experts argue that the new legislation falls short of fully resolving the challenges faced by stateless people in the Netherlands.

While the introduction of a judicial procedure to determine statelessness is a welcome development, concerns remain regarding the lack of residence rights attached to the procedure – both during the procedure and once officially recognised as stateless. Moreover, the requirement of "stable and habitual" residence for stateless children to obtain Dutch nationality is inconsistent with international norms.  While the legislative reforms may provide advantages to stateless individuals who already possess residence rights in the Netherlands based on other grounds, they fall significantly short in addressing the needs of the most marginalised stateless people, those lacking formal residence status.

The new laws will be published before entering into force at a later date. Working with the community on raising awareness of the changes to the law and monitoring its implementation and future contestation will now be critical.

Looking ahead, there is an opportunity to address the remaining deficiencies through a resolution that mandates an external evaluation after five years of implementing the new procedure. ENS members and their partners will actively monitor the practical implementation of these laws and continue collecting data for the Statelessness Index, providing clear recommendations to the Netherlands on actions required to enhance the prevention and reduction of statelessness and the protection of stateless people, ultimately working towards ending statelessness in the country.

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