Refugee or just Stateless? - A Study of International Refugee Law in relation to Stateless Persons and Socio-Economic Deprivation
Abstract: Statelessness restricts the access of many rights, such as education and employment, which leads to many stateless persons finding themselves in socio-economic deprivation. The predicament of socio-economic deprivation can become so acute as to force people to cross international borders to seek protection elsewhere, for example as refugees. In international refugee law, it is widely acknowledged that a claim for refugee status can be based on socio-economic deprivation. Stateless persons can establish a claim for refugee status under the Refugee Convention as well as avail themselves of the protection of the Statelessness Convention and the Reduction of Statelessness Convention. However, the indefinite nature of the refugee definition gives rise to interpretative issues and differences in interpretation between jurisdictions. The purpose of this thesis is to examine whether the situation of statelessness causes additional interpretative challenges in the context of claims for refugee status based on the denial of economic and social rights and how such potential challenges can best be resolved. To fulfil this purpose, the examination focuses on the requirements of ‘being persecuted’ and a causal link in the refugee definition. To this end, a doctrinal research method has been employed. The elements of the refugee definition have been examined by the use of mainly secondary sources, such as doctrine and case law. In regard to case law, cases concerning stateless claims for refugee status based on socio-economic deprivation from five English language jurisdictions have been discussed. The situation of statelessness gives rise to additional interpretative challenges in regard to Article 2(3) of the ICESCR. Article 2(3) of the ICESCR is a narrow exception to the non-discrimination principle which applies to developing countries in regard to economic rights and non-nationals. Another specific issue which arises in stateless claims for refugee status based on socio-economic deprivation is what relevance the lack of reciprocal agreements be-tween states should be given. In this regard, a thorough examination of whether differential treatment based on the lack of reciprocal agreements is proportionate must be made. In relation to the requirement of a causal link in the refugee definition, the situation of statelessness causes no additional interpretative issues but rather it complicates the appreciation of the facts of the case. Decision-makers must engage in more depth with the facts of the case and expand their understanding of the situation of statelessness and how it emerges.
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