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Understanding statelessness in the Syria refugee context

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New tools to understand statelessness in the Syria refugee context

What factors are complicating access to Syrian nationality and why is this a problem? Which children are most at risk of becoming stateless? What is the situation of refugees from Syria who were already stateless, prior to the conflict, and remain so in exile? How is the regional refugee response addressing these questions? What more could be done to mitigate the impact of statelessness on the refugees from Syria and protect the right of refugee children to Syrian nationality?

The Norwegian Refugee Council and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion have developed a Toolkit to help refugee practitioners explore these questions. The Toolkit draws on extensive consultations with humanitarian actors operating in the region, international refugee law and statelessness experts and displaced persons. It offers a collection of information and resources designed to help practitioners in the field to quickly and easily find answers to questions about statelessness in the Syria refugee context. It contains explanatory texts, factsheets, case studies, good practice examples and training videos. The toolkit is relevant both to practitioners working in the region and to those working with Syrian refugees around the world.

The Toolkit is freely available online in English (and soon also Arabic) at www.syrianationality.org. The research report can be downloaded here:www.syrianationality.org/pdf/report.pdf.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Civil war broke out in Syria in 2011. Since then, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and significant areas of the country have fallen under the control of armed non-State actors. This has caused a humanitarian disaster of colossal proportions, both inside Syria and beyond its borders. As many as 4.8 million refugees are registered in neighbouring countries and over a million have travelled to Europe.

The overwhelming majority of these refugees hold Syrian nationality and face no immediate risk of statelessness. Moreover, children born in exile inherit Syrian nationality automatically, by operation of the law, if their father is a Syrian citizen. However, a small proportion of the refugees are already stateless (i.e. are not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law). Others, particularly children born in exile, are at risk of statelessness due to the operation of Syria’s nationality law or difficulties documenting their connection to Syria and right to nationality.

Statelessness is a driver of insecurity and injustice, including in situations of conflict and displacement. It is important for humanitarian actors to understand the challenges of protecting Syrian refugees’ right to a nationality and ensuring effective protection for stateless refugees.
This is relevant not only to the current refugee response, but also to mitigate problems that could arise in finding durable solutions for refugees from Syria, including voluntary return to Syria when circumstances in the country allow.

This research project aims to provide an assessment of the risk of new cases of statelessness arising among Syrian refugees and their children and the particular vulnerabilities of stateless refugees from Syria. The research focused on the countries neighbouring Syria which are hosting the greatest numbers of refugees: Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. A specific goal of the project is to inform the development of a “toolkit” to help organisations engaged in the refugee response to better understand the intersections between their work and statelessness, and to share good practices, innovations and practical steps that they can take to ensure the effective protection of stateless persons and contribute to the longer-term prevention and reduction of statelessness.

With this aim in mind the research considered three profiles among the Syrian refugee population: 1) members of the general refugee population from Syria facing challenges in obtaining civil documentation; 2) individuals who are at heightened risk of becoming stateless in displacement; and 3) individuals who are both stateless and refugees.