Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 2.37.58 PMTHE HAGUE (15-17 September) – From 15 – 17 September 2014 the first ever Global Forum on Statelessness was held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. The three-day event was co-hosted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) together with the Statelessness Programme of Tilburg University, and welcomed over 300 participants globally, making it the largest international conference on statelessness in the world.


“The vulnerability of the stateless is most evident in the context of detention, which is commonplace in many countries from all regions of the world. Such detention is often – and at best – unnecessary and unreasonable; at worst it is arbitrary and degrading.”


Equal Rights Trust, Unraveling Anomaly


 The Global Forum marked the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. The momentum on action to address statelessness has increased in recent years, owing to the joint efforts of governments, NGOs, academic institutions and UNHCR. Among other things, there has been an increased awareness of the particular risk of prolonged, arbitrary and indefinite detention to stateless persons around the world, and the IDC is working closely with our members and partners to address the arbitrary detention of stateless persons around the world.



Thousands of stateless persons are detained throughout the world every day because they have no effective nationality. Such detention may be for administrative purposes in the context of immigration, may be legitimised on national security grounds, or may be the result of criminal action being brought against the stateless. In all of these contexts, stateless persons are extremely vulnerable to being detained, and disproportionately impacted by lengthy, unnecessary detention due to their irregular status and difficulties in effectuating their deportation.

The administrative detention of stateless persons is only permitted as a matter of international law where it is ‘necessary’, ‘reasonable’, and ‘proportionate’ to the ‘legitimate aim’ to be achieved, and then only after less coercive alternatives have been found not to be suitable in each individual case. However, in reality, stateless persons are frequently subjected to unnecessary, arbitrary or unlawful detention as a matter of first resort, and liberty deprivations—including prolonged or indefinite detention—of those who have no effective nationality are increasingly common around the world. Preliminary analysis of available research suggests that practically all types of stateless persons may be at risk of arbitrary detention.


Panel Event

Against this background, the International Detention Coalition (IDC), with the support of IDC Members, the European Network on StatelessnessEqual Rights Trust, and Lawyers for Human Rights, hosted a thematic panel event on “Protecting the Stateless from Arbitrary Detention” during the Global Forum on Statelessness.  A flyer for the event is available here.

Distinguished panelists included:

  • Mr. Ariel Riva, Division of International Protection, UNHCR
  • Mr. Amal DeChickera, Senior Consultant on Statelessness, Equal Rights Trust
  • Ms. Liesl Muller, Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme – Statelessness Unit, Lawyers for Human Rights
  • Mr. Ben Lewis, Advocacy Coordinator, International Detention Coalition

The discussion provided an overview of the issue of administrative detention of stateless persons and sought to propose solutions for ending the unnecessary, arbitrary or unlawful detention of stateless persons, including the development of alternatives to detention.  Discussion also focused on identifying areas for cooperation and the establishment of specialized partnerships to reduce and end the practice of unnecessary, arbitrary or unlawful administrative detention of stateless persons.

For more information on the work of the IDC and our members to address issues of statelessness around the world, see the IDC’s Detention Database thematic section on Statelessness.