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Citizenship: none. HFHR intervenes in stateless person’s case

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has intervened in a case of a stateless person applying for a presidential grant of citizenship.

The case concerns Andriey, who was born in Lithuania from Belarussian parents. He has never had a separate passport and crossed the border together with his parents as an infant whose details were recorded in his parents’ passports. He was treated as a foreign national upon returning to his country of origin, Belarus. He tried to obtain Belarussian citizenship but immigration authorities denied his request, claiming that the grant of citizenship was impossible. According to the authorities, the man should have sought naturalisation in Lithuania. However, Lithuanian authorities claim that he does not satisfy the criteria of the country’s citizenship laws.

Temporary stay in Poland

Since 2016, Andriey has been staying in Poland based on a temporary residence permit. During that time, he has twice applied to the President of Poland for the grant of Polish citizenship but his applications were denied. However, both his wife and daughter have become Polish nationals.

Andriey’s temporary residence permit expires in 2019. He may request an extension, but in order to be able to do that he needs to produce an identity document. The problem is that Andriey does not have a passport or other personal ID as both countries he used to live in do not recognise him as a citizen. This may lead to the situation in which the man will be considered an illegal immigrant upon the expiry of his residence permit. If this happens, Andriey can be placed at an immigration detention centre for as long as two years, pending his expulsion from Poland.

He lives and works in Poland, together with his family. He speaks fluent Polish. He wants to settle in Poland permanently. The grant of citizenship would enable him to achieve these goals and end his troubles with proving his identity.

Difficult situation of stateless persons

Persons without nationality face many negative consequences of their statelessness. “The legal status of such individuals is extremely complicated: they have no personal IDs or passports so they are unable to travel freely. And in Poland, there are no easy-to-use procedures designed to legalise the stay of stateless persons”, says Ewa Ostaszewska-Żuk, a lawyer working for the HFHR.

Stateless persons encounter problems in all everyday situations in which they need to prove their identity: while opening a bank account, making a hire-purchase transaction, paying utility bills, renting a flat or signing a contract.

International community has recognised the significance of problems faced by persons without nationality. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasises that everyone has the right to a nationality. This right means that states are obliged to avoid statelessness, which is described in detail in the European Convention on Nationality.

Yet another case

Andriey is another stateless persons assisted by the HFHR. In 2017, the Foundation handled the case of Viktoriia from Ukraine, who had lost her original nationality due to an error of an administrative body and had been at the time staying in Poland for more than a decade.

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