What is Statelessness?

Who is Stateless?

​The international legal definition of a stateless person is set out in Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which defines a stateless person as "a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law". It means that a stateless person does not have nationality or citizenship in any country of the world.

Here, nationality refers to the legal bond between a person and a state. This bond can best be seen as a form of official membership which confers upon the national certain rights (like the right to live in the country or participate in elections) as well as duties (like the duty of military service, where this is still in place).


A person who is stateless lacks this membership and will be seen and treated as a foreigner by every country in the world.

Common Challenges of a Stateless Person

Stateless people frequently lack any and all identity documents like birth certificates or passports. Most importantly, stateless people have no way of getting documents.


You might have tried many times to get a passport, a birth certificate or an ID, or even to deport yourself, only to find yourself turned away again and again because you "don't qualify."​ Stateless people are deprived of basic human rights, and this often leads to:

NO Identification (NO ID, NO bank accounts, NO driver's license, etc.,)

NO Healthcare

NO Work

NO Travel

NO Education

Family separation





Depression, Severe Anxiety and Mental Health Issues

Destitution, detention, lack of access to health care or education, the impossibility of marrying a loved one or registering the birth of a child. These are just some of the many problems faced by stateless people around the world, especially when their existence is ignored and their basic human rights are denied. It is vital that States formally identify stateless individuals, ensuring that they are able to enjoy the full range of human rights.
António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2014