Statelessness, the Human Rights Commission & The Dept Of immigration And Citizenship
In 2012 the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) published the report ‘Community arrangements for asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons’. The report discusses the issue of stateless persons being kept in detention for long periods of time because they have not been granted refugee status or had substantive visa pathways made available to them.
The AHRC recommended that the Australian Government should develop a formal statelessness determination mechanism
The AHRC recommended that the Australian Government should develop a formal statelessness determination mechanism which recognises both de jure, and de facto statelessness.
The meaning of de jure statelessness can be found in Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”.
While there is no international agreed definition of de facto statelessness, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated in 2010 “de facto stateless persons are persons outside the country of their nationality who are unable or, for valid reasons, are unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country.”
Additionally the report recommends the establishment of administrative pathways for the grant of substantive visas to stateless persons who have been found not to be refugees or otherwise owed protection.
The Department of Home Affairs response
The DIBD response to the AHRC’s report stated that neither the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons or the the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness “prevents removal of stateless persons who are unlawfully in Australia…or requires the grant of a visa, and statelessness alone is not a ground for engaging Australia’s international protection obligations under other international human rights instruments”. However they did say they were “committed to identify situations of statelessness more rapidly and to provide for decision makers better tools for assessing the claims of stateless people.”
Nonetheless three years after the publication of the AHRC’s recommendations, the chief executive officer of the Refugee Council of Australia Paul Power said:
The lack of a statutory statelessness determination procedure coupled with no viable resolution for stateless people has meant that hundreds of stateless people in detention and in the community face an uncertain future.”