Despite international conventions with provisions against statelessness, how does a person lose their only citizenship, or be born without citizenship, today in this day? Is it possible? What are the factors that affect a person becoming stateless?

  • Yes, how about refugees of foreign lands giving birth to children, and in some instances (as ONE example) not being specific on the topic, this is how that COULD happen in terms of being born into it today. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 23:49
  • In some places some kinds of people are not considered to be any more than objects. They wouldn't be given any status beyond an owner. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 9:27
  • 1
    There is no "international law against statelessness". There is a convention, the Convention on Reduction of Statelessness, which has provisions on reducing statelessness caused by the countries party to it, but most countries are not party to it.
    – user102008
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 22:34
  • @user102008 I meant international law discouraged statelessness, but to a degree that it is almost "against" it. I'll change it anyway because it's too ambiguous.
    – Paraney
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 12:45

4 Answers 4


Wikipedia has a section about it on the statelessness article. But to summarise it, the main reasons are

  • Conflict of laws for example, if you are born in a country which does not recognise the Jus Soli (getting nationality from the place where you are born) and the country of your parents does not recognise the Jus Sangui, inheritance of nationality.

  • Gender discrimination 27 countries to not recognise the right for women to transmit their nationalities.

  • Discrimination some countries refuse to recognise a nationality to some ethnicity. Even if that's against international treaties.

  • State succession if your state cease to exist. See Anixx's answer for USSR, or Yugoslavia.

  • Administrative in some cases, the administrative path to get the nationality one is entitled to may be complex, or costly. For example to provide a valid Birth Certificate might be a problem in some countries.

  • Renunciation simply having one nationality and asking to drop it.

  • Non-state territories though rare, there are some territories which did not belong to any states.

  • AFAIK, in Yugoslavia there is no such issue. It is an isolated case with the Baltic states.
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 11:20
  • @Anixx Yugoslavia was mentioned in the Wikipedia's article. Note that they also mention Ethiopia and the links mention Erythrea... Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 11:29

In Baltic States they stripped of citizenship about 40% of population after becoming independent of the USSR. Basically, those who or whose ancestors had not live in those states before 1940. Even if those people were born there.

These mostly were Russians.

  • 3
    I did not downvote this answer, but I would suspect it got downvoted because it only mentions one isolated historic incident which lead to a large number of people becoming stateless, so it is not a complete answer to this question.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 11:18

Probably the best answer comes from UNHCR:

Areas that have seen large movements of people due to war or economic migration have also been significantly affected by statelessness. In West Africa, the estimated stateless population in Côte d'Ivoire is 700,000, many of whom were migrants of Burkinabé descent who were not eligible for Ivorian nationality after the country's independence from France in 1960.

Statelessness due to the dissolution of former states also continues to affect many people, including some 600,000 people in Europe alone. For example, Montenegro, which was formerly part of the Yugoslav federation, has approximately 3,200 registered stateless people, while Estonia and Latvia have some 86,000 and 262,000 stateless people respectively.

In many countries stateless persons are frequently denied a range of rights such as identity documents, legal employment, education and health services. In some other settings, such as Estonia and Latvia, they enjoy rights comparable to citizens in many respects.

There have been notable examples where, through political will, it has been possible to resolve large protracted situations of statelessness. For example, the case of some 300,000 Urdu-speakers (sometimes referred to as Biharis), was resolved in Bangladesh in 2008. Similarly, the situation of the Brasileirinhos Apatridás, stateless children born to Brazilian parents abroad who were unable to acquire Brazilian nationality unless they went back to live in Brazil, was resolved in 2007. Estonia and Latvia have also both recently taken steps to further facilitate the acquisition of citizenship by those born in Estonia and Latvia to non-citizen parents, which will help ensure that these situations are resolved over time.

from http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c15e.html


If the reports I read are accurate, a combination of Trump getting elected and then being born in the US if your parents are illegal immigrants would do it.

To clarify that this is indeed an answer even if an unpopular one, see https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2015/08/16/trump-would-deport-children-illegal-immigrants/0k8tnLoq6mlOygt3oGV67M/story.html

The parents country, if identified, could decline to confer citizenship.

  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 20:34
  • @chad Yes it does answer the question, although perhaps not with an answer you like.
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 21:18
  • They still have their original country. Therefore they are not stateless Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 21:31
  • The child's original country is the one they are born in.
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 21:42
  • Trump might deport them, but they would still be US citizens under current legal interpretation. Not an answer. They also would probably be citizens of the parents' country or countries. You'd have to find a specific country where a parent doesn't confer citizenship to the children, not just a declaration that one might exist. Also, you need a country without birthright citizenship.
    – Brythan
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 23:16

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