Research shows that stateless people are often detained for months and even years, without any real prospect of their cases being resolved. This is because immigration systems do not have appropriate procedures in place to identify those who are left without nationality and to protect stateless people.
Stories of those #LockedInLimbo
Peter is in his late fifties. He came to the UK about 20 years ago from Nigeria and made several attempts to obtain legal status, all of which failed. Without this, he was not allowed to work and was convicted for working illegally. After serving his sentence he spent nine months in immigration detention while attempts were made to remove him. He had signed up to return voluntarily to Nigeria but the Nigerian High Commission refused to accept him as a national. As Peter was born near the border of Nigeria with Cameroon, the Home Office approached the Cameroonian embassy. However, Cameroon also refused to recognise him as their national, saying he was Nigerian. When Peter was released from detention, he refused to leave because he had no place to go and wanted to return to Nigeria. He was left in the streets with no support. He was then re-detained again for three months because the Home Office wanted to bring him to the Nigerian High Commission one more time but he was again not accepted as a national.
“Why did they hold me for seven years and gave me nothing?”Anton is a stateless person from the former USSR. He was held in immigration detention in Bulgaria for seven years. Over the years, he was told he would be deported, but he was never given any details about what the authorities were doing to affect his deportation. The only alternative to detention envisaged in Bulgarian law is daily reporting at a police station, but only those with a registered address in Bulgaria are eligible, which Anton did not have. He was finally released following an intervention by the Council of Europe and now lives undocumented in Bulgaria.
“The documents I do have tell me I’m of 'unknown nationality'. Officially I still don't exist”Angela is an ethnic Armenian from Azerbaijan. She fled to the Netherlands seeking asylum with her family in her early teens, but they were refused protection. Countless efforts to obtain new travel documents failed and both Armenia and Azerbaijan refused to facilitate their return. Angela was detained in 2012 during an attempt to forcibly remove her family, which had a huge emotional impact on her. A court ruled her detention unlawful and suspended forced return, but this did not end her limbo.
"They said, prove that you're stateless with documents. Once I showed them documents they said, a stateless persons wouldn't have these."Mohammed is a stateless Bidoon from Kuwait. He arrived in the Netherlands with a false passport, hoping to escape the utter exclusion faced by the Bidoon community in his home country. Despite his statelessness being well-established, Mohammed spent two months in detention at the border and a further eight months in a ‘freedom-restricting location’. It is unclear how his nationality status was recorded by the authorities and what procedures were in place to identify and monitor Mohammed’s suitability for detention.
"I am not a criminal. (...) This detention looks like criminal detention but I am not a criminal."Abdulla from Afghanistan arrived in Ukraine in his early twenties. He managed to cross the border into Slovakia and request asylum, but the Slovak border guards would only admit the families with children in the group. Single men, including Abdulla, were returned to Ukraine and detained. After a year in immigration detention, Abdulla was released with a temporary residence permit as he could not be removed to Afghanistan without a travel document. This temporary status entitled him to remain in Ukraine but did not give him the right to work or access welfare or healthcare services. Frustrated by the limbo he was facing he tried again to cross into the EU, but was again apprehended and detained. Abdulla remains in detention in Ukraine.
Latest campaign updates
Read the latest news on the #LockedInLimbo campaign and learn more about how to support actions across Europe to end detention of stateless people.