Addressing statelessness in the Syria refugee context

The Syrian civil war 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 section of the toolkit provides a summary, drawn from the research report Understanding statelessness in the Syria refugee context, of the issues affecting three different sub-sets of the refugee population from Syria: 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. It then offers an overview of the stakeholders which have a role to play in identifying and addressing (the risk of) statelessness among refugees from Syria, followed by a selection of awareness raising tools and techniques, a discussion of important advocacy messages and talking points, and a number of case study examples from the region.

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