The 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons contains a widely accepted definition of statelessness. Therein, a stateless person is defined as someone “who is not considered as a national by any State under operation of its law.”

Simply put, a stateless person does not have a country that claims him or her as their own. On the one hand, it may sound romantic for a person to be free from belonging to a state. In reality, rights derive from how a person belongs to their respective state. Without that belonging, the person is deprived of rights, even the most basic ones.

While there are international conventions meant to resolve these gaps, the conventions lack enforcement mechanisms to provide meaningful protection (a common problem for international law). Moreover, some countries are not yet signatories to the relevant conventions, while others have not ratified them.

Statelessness as defined by the stateless: