Malta nearing decision on ratification of UN convention on statelessness

Home Affairs minister Michael Farrugia said Malta was in the final stages of an internal assessment of the convention’s requirement

Minister Michael Farrugia (centre) stressed Malta would continue to abide by its international obligations
Minister Michael Farrugia (centre) stressed Malta would continue to abide by its international obligations

Home Affairs minister Michael Farrugia said this morning that Malta nearing the final stages in its assessment on whether to ratify the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which Malta is not a signatory to. The multilateral treaty broadly aims to protect stateless people – a person not recognised as a national by any state – by obliging countries not to discriminate against stateless people in providing access to education, employment, and freedom of movement and association, among other provisions.   

The minister was giving a speech during a statelessness seminar at the Parliament building in Valletta, where he said that the convention had not been on Malta’s agenda, before “the European Commission pledged, on Malta’s behalf as a member state, that Malta would address issues of statelessness by ratifying the in 1954 convention, and by considering the ratification of a 1961 convention on the reduction of statelessness.

Farrugai said that the Government was currently in the process of carrying out an “internal assessment” of the “requirements of the convention in relation to national legislation and practice”.

“I can dare say we are at a very advanced stage, and nearing the final stages,” Farrugia told the seminar, later adding that it would allow Malta to “reach a decision” on ratification.

The minister underscored his belief that the issue was a very important and ever-relevant one. Farrugia pointed out that throughout the course of his parliamentary career he had always worked in social fields, and that that this gave him the vision and ability to add a “much-needed” social aspect to his portfolio as Home Affairs minister.

He said that despite not being a signatory to the convention, the Maltese legislative framework – the Citizenship Act – provided for a number of issues related to statelessness.

One example, he said, was the provision granted the right to acquire citizenship to individuals upon them turning 18, “provided they meet the necessary requirements and are of good conduct”.

Moreover, he said the country was already providing rights to stateless persons on the lines of the provisions in the 1964 convention.

Turning to the international scene, Farrugia said statelessness was an important issue, especially in light of the magnitude of current migration flows, especially of people fleeing from conflict.  

“While such situations do no in and of themselves result in statelessness it is sometimes the case,” he added.

Furthermore, the minister noted that Malta had announced, ahead of its presidency of the European Council at the start of the year, that it would be keeping statelessness on the agenda. This, he said, had resulted in the Home Affairs council launching a set of best practices related to such cases.

Finally, the minister said that he considered the Government’s internal assessment to have taught it a lot about statelessness, stressing that in the meantime, Malta would continue to abide by its international obligations.

Speaking ahead of the minister, Inge Sturkenboom from the UNHCR said there were 570,534 statelessness people under UNHCR’s mandate of which 413,360, were in the EU. She noted that a considerable number of stateless persons originated from former Soviet republics.

Furthermore, she said that given that Syria had a very big population of stateless people, the enduring conflict in the region had resulted in Europe seeing ever-increasing arrivals of stateless individuals.

She also highlighted a problem with the classification of people arriving in countries, with many being classified as having an undetermined nationality, indefinitely. She stressed that the classification “should be temporary, and there should be some effort made to determine their state”.

Accoridng to Stukenboom, approximately 23 of Europe’s member states had gaps in their nationality laws, with Malta not being one of them. She added however that while several countries had good laws, there was a problem with inadequate implementation of those laws. 

More in National

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition