There are some fundamental human rights that apply to all persons regardless of their status or the type of stay in a particular jurisdiction. These include, for example, the prohibition against torture and the principle of non-discrimination. Indeed, the 1954 Convention affirms that its provisions shall be applied to stateless persons “without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin” (Article 3).
Every stateless person has the duty to conform to laws and regulations of the country in which he finds himself (Article 2). Assuming that this obligation is met, Article 7 (1) of the Convention sets out the basic level of protection to which a stateless person is entitled.
It stipulates that, except in instances where the Convention explicitly contains more favourable treatment, “a Contracting State shall accord to stateless persons the same treatment as is accorded to aliens generally.”
With respect to most of the rights enumerated in the 1954 Convention, stateless persons should have at least the same access to the rights and benefits as that guaranteed to aliens, particularly concerning gainful employment (Articles 17, 18, and 19), public education (Article 22), housing (Article 21), and freedom of movement (Article 26). For other specific rights, Contracting States are encouraged to accord stateless persons lawfully residing on their territory a standard of treatment comparable to that accorded to nationals of the State, particularly for freedom to practice a religion (Article 4), artistic rights and industrial property (Article 14), access to the courts (Article 16), public relief (Article 23), and labour legislation and social security (Article 24).
Stateless persons rights to identity and travel documents
The Convention stipulates that Contracting States shall issue identity papers to any stateless person in their territory who does not possess a valid travel document. Article 28 stipulates that Contracting States shall issue travel documents to stateless persons who lawfully reside on their territory, unless compelling reasons of national security and public order argue otherwise.
The issuance of a document does not imply a grant of nationality, does not alter the status of the individual, and does not grant the right to benefit from diplomatic protection.
The second part of Article 28 invites States to issue travel documents to any stateless person in the territory, even those who are not lawful residents. States are asked to consider issuing Convention Travel Documents to stateless persons who are on their territory and who are unable to obtain a travel document from their country of lawful residence. This provision is particularly important, given that many stateless persons may not have a country of lawful residence. A travel document both helps to identify the stateless person and also allows the individual to seek entry into an appropriate State.
Travel documents are particularly important to stateless persons in facilitating travel to other countries for study, employment, healthcare or resettlement. In accordance with the Schedule to the Convention, each Contracting State agrees to recognise the validity of travel documents issued by other States Parties. UNHCR can offer technical advice on issuing these kinds of documents.
Expulsion of person recognised as stateless
Under the terms of the Convention, stateless persons lawfully staying in the country are not to be expelled except on grounds of national security or public order. Expulsions are subject to due-process-of-law safeguards, unless there are compelling reasons of national security. Procedural guarantees should therefore be in place to allow the stateless person to answer and to submit evidence concerning any accusation, to be represented by a legal counsel, and to be granted the right of appeal.
The Final Act of the Convention indicates that non-refoulement is a generally accepted principle. Non-refoulement, the principle of not returning a person to a territory where he / she would be at risk of persecution, is explicitly upheld or interpreted in the provisions of several international treaties, including Article 33 of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Article 7 of the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, and several regional human rights instruments.
Since the prohibition against refoulement is accepted as a principle of international law, the drafters of the Convention felt it was not necessary to enshrine it in the articles of a Convention that is regulating the status of de jure stateless persons.
Once a final decision of expulsion has been taken, the Convention asks that States grant the individual concerned sufficient time to obtain admission to another country.
IMAGE CREDIT: UNHCR