Press 29,455 people recognised as being stateless at the end of 2022

Press release No. 091 of 9 March 2023

  • The number of people registered as stateless in Germany has doubled since 2014
  • Nearly half of the stateless people were born in Syria
  • One fourth of the stateless are children and young people under 18 years

WIESBADEN – At the end of 2022, 29,455 people were registered as stateless in the Central Register of Foreigners. The number of people registered as stateless in Germany reached an all-time high, according to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). The number of stateless people in Germany had always fluctuated between 13,000 and 14,000 each year from 2005 to 2013. Then it doubled from 2014, when the strong forced migration started, until the end of 2022.


Majority of the stateless are men, one fourth minors

In accordance with the United Nations Convention of 1954, people are referred to as stateless if they are not considered as a national by any state. In most of the cases, a person’s statelessness is established when they apply for a residence title or for asylum. Most of the stateless registered in Germany at the end of 2022 were men (58%, or 17,025). One fourth (25%, or 7,455) of the stateless were children and young people under 18 years.

Nearly half of the registered stateless were born in Syria

Nearly half (48%, or 14,055) of the people registered as stateless at the end of 2022 were born in Syria. Among the most frequent countries of birth are Germany (16%) and Lebanon (5%). The number of stateless people born in Germany has risen from 3,550 to 4,860 since 2014, while the number of stateless born abroad has more than doubled since 2014 (from 11,100 to 24,595). Children born in Germany to foreign parents will not be granted German citizenship if not at least one parent has lived in Germany for 8 years and has a permanent right of residence (see information provided by the federal government).


Reasons for being stateless: official documents missing in many cases

There are various reasons why people are stateless. People have to possess an official document in the form of an identity card or a birth certificate to prove their citizenship. If people do not have such official documents, that can be a reason why they are stateless. It may be the consequence of births not having been registered. Worldwide, an estimated 237 million children under the age of 5 do not have a birth certificate (see Report of the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF on birth registration, 2019).

Another reason can be legislation on the basis of which people are discriminated against because of their ethnicity or religion, for instance. Gender-based discrimination may also lead to statelessness, one example being that women cannot pass on their citizenship to their child in some countries. The right to pass on nationality is reserved for men. If the father does not acknowledge paternity or is unknown, the child will be stateless (see report of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI), 2020, a human rights organisation). People can lose their citizenship also when their state is dissolved and they do not manage to obtain citizenship of the successor state. This is how many people became stateless in Europe in the 1990s in the course of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia (see report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2018).

Expert group makes recommendations on how to improve statelessness data basis

4.3 million people worldwide were stateless at the end of 2021 according to UNHCR data (see UNHCR Global Trends Report 2021). The actual number of stateless people was probably even considerably higher as it can be assumed that there is a large number of unknown cases. A reliable data basis is important for fighting statelessness. An expert group of the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSD) has prepared International Recommendations on Statelessness Statistics (IROSS), which were discussed at the 54th session of the Statistical Commission in New York from 28 February to 3 March 2023. They provide for creating an internationally agreed standard statistical concept of statelessness including the relevant definitions and classifications. Such a concept will be made available to all states for uniform statistical coverage of stateless people in order to enhance the data basis and make the phenomenon of statelessness visible.

Methodological notes:

In Germany, establishing statelessness requires the final clarification of a person’s identity, with those concerned being obliged to participate in the process. Generally, the statelessness of a person is checked by the foreigners authorities in connection with measures of residence and passport legislation. While the asylum procedure is used to determine refugee status, there is no formalised process in Germany for establishing statelessness.

In addition to those recognised as being stateless, there were 97,150 people with unclear citizenship status or without citizenship information in the Central Register of Foreigners at the end of 2022. This includes people who could not clearly prove their citizenship by official documents and whose citizenship was not finally checked or whose statelessness was not established.

Data on individual countries of birth of foreigners from the Central Register of Foreigners are available to the Federal Statistical Office as of reference date 31 December 2020. Although the information is recorded in standardised form, it is in part incomplete as it is provided voluntarily. The Federal Statistical Office partly supplements missing data in the course of processing (see the article on “Country and place of birth in the Central Register of Foreigners - Possibilities for use by official statistics“ (only in german) in the 2/2020 edition of the "WISTA – Wirtschaft und Statistik“ journal). 7% of the data for 2020 were completed in this manner, the state of birth remained unknown for 7% of the stateless people recorded in the Central Register of Foreigners. The only information available for the years before 2020 is whether someone was born in Germany or abroad. Results obtained by evaluations of the Central Register of Foreigners are confidential in accordance with Section 16 of the Federal Statistics Act (BStatG) to prevent information being derived on the personal or factual circumstances of those concerned. More detailed information on the confidentiality procedure used for the statistics of foreigners are found in our quality report (only in german). Due to the confidentiality procedure, there may be differences between the totals shown and the total of the individual rounded items.

The results on statelessness in Germany are based on an ad-hoc evaluation as part of the statistics of foreigners. The complete results of the statistics of foreigners will presumably be published at the end of April 2023.

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