The “right to a nationality” is enshrined in several international
legal instruments, based on the sound principle that nobody should
be left stateless. Yet in some Council of Europe member States –
notably Latvia, the Russian Federation, Estonia and Ukraine – there
are still high numbers of stateless persons. The European Convention
on Nationality, adopted by the Council of Europe in 1997, enshrines
the right to a nationality, but to date it has been ratified by
only 20 member States.
States should sign up to and enforce the European Convention
on Nationality as well as the United Nations conventions against
statelessness, and follow United Nations guidelines on what constitutes
a stateless person. They should enable naturalisation of long-term
residents, asking for no more than five years’ residency, charging
reasonable fees and not discriminating on grounds of gender, race,
religion, ethnic origin or language. They should also be more tolerant
of multiple nationalities, as mixed marriages become more common
and people move around more.
Moreover, procedures for registering births should be tightened
up, with newborn children of stateless parents being given the nationality
of their country of birth, unless the parents provide proof of immediate
acquisition of the nationality of another State.