Research and Orientation Workshop and International Conference
'The State of the Global Protection System for Refugees and Migrants'

Calcutta Research Group, (25-30 November 2018)

Module E


Module E. Statelessness, International Conventions and the Need for New Initiatives

Coordinator: Professor Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury




Stateless people are those who are obliged to live without the protection of a state. As the world has been parcelled out into states, not to be a member of any one of them is a matter of serious concern. Nationality and citizenship are two words most commonly used to describe the same phenomenon – the legal bond of membership between an individual and a state. A loss of citizenship results in statelessness. While membership of a state is the norm, statelessness continues to be widespread and has not escaped the interest of the international community. Within the realm of public international law, rules have evolved in response to the problem of statelessness.

Statelessness most commonly affects refugees, although not all refugees are stateless, and not all stateless men, women and children are taken to be refugees. Refugee status entails the extra requirements that the refugee be outside his or her country of nationality (or country of habitual domicile if stateless), and is deserving of asylum based on a well-founded fear of persecution for categorised reasons which make him/her unwilling or unable to avail of the protection of that country. According to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or the extended definitions in relevant regional instruments and under UNHCR’s international protection mandate, refugees may also, and frequently do, fall within Article 1(1) of 1954 convention. If a stateless person is simultaneously a refugee, he or she should be protected according to the higher standard which in most circumstances will be international refugee law, not least due to the protection from refoulement in Article 33 of the 1951 Convention.


Causes and Context of Statelessness in South Asia


Often statelessness emerges from succession of states or territorial reorganisations. But it also emerges from persecution of minorities and a state’s majoritarian bias, which lead states at times to expel citizens or inhabitants. Also, states in South Asia, being what is sometimes referred to as ‘kin states’, represent social and ethnic continuities across the borders and the cases selected below illustrate this. Although there are overlapping sources of statelessness in contemporary South Asia, experts have identified three salient facts while analysing the causes of statelessness in South Asia.
• Very few contiguous South Asian states have entirely normalised relations with each other, usually on account of disputes concerning borders and cross-border movements. The inherent and massive heterogeneity of South Asian states has frequently given rise to militant resistance— often with a secessionist agenda. The states have progressively tightened their citizenship criteria, thus creating growing pockets of statelessness at their cultural and geographical margins
• Decolonisation in South Asia has involved multiple territorial divisions and casting out minority groups/ claims. Two of the most tumultuous dissections of South Asia occurred for precisely these reasons— the Partition of India in 1947 and the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. It follows, then, that these nation-building experiments created the ideal conditions for inducing statelessness.
• The third aspect of statelessness in South Asia results from economic migration between states. The subcontinent in pre colonial times had retained fuzzy frontiers and maintained traditions of seasonal migration and permanent minority settlements. Since the advent of independent nation-states, however, leaders representing the majority have argued for the disenfranchisement of such groups, which appear to have closer ties to the national identity of a neighbouring state than to the identity of the states of their residence. Political centres have demanded migrants’ ‘repatriation,’ which has been refused by the neighbour states, leaving the group stateless.

Against this backdrop, this module seeks to find answers to the following questions (Participants are requested to make their presentations touching on any of these questions, or a combination of them, with reference to various cases of statelessness in the region.)
• How certain groups and communities are rendered stateless? While states often remain far from being ethnically homogeneous, are minorities living within them more vulnerable to statelessness than others?
• Does protracted refugee-hood eventually result in statelessness? Is the distinction between refugee-hood and statelessness increasingly wearing thin?
• Is the existing legal regime adequate to deal with the problem of statelessness? What has been the experience with case laws in different countries of South Asia and of other regions?
• Can judicial activism, as evident in some of the countries, particularly in recent years, serve as an effective guarantee?
• Does the varied nature of our experience call for changes in the existing municipal and international laws? Does this underline the necessity of framing regional laws relating to the stateless in different world regions? • Do policymakers need to think beyond legal terms? • Does all this call for activating and strengthening the civil society institutions?


Draft of Full Paper: CLICK HERE



Sl.No. Name & Details of the Participants Country Photo Research Articles Comments by Coordinator

Abdul Kalam Azad, Independent Researcher ||
Abdul Kalam Azad is an independent researcher based in Assam. He graduated from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati and worked with the same institution as a research fellow for two years. His research interest includes conflict, displacement, statelessness etc. He founded a grass-root organization called Jhai Foundation which works with the people living in char (River Island) of Assam. He regularly writes for national and international media outlets like Outlook Magazine, The Caravan Magazine, and Al Jazeera among others .


Erdogan H. Sima, University of Lapland || Email:
Erdogan H. Sima is a PhD Researcher at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees, respectively, in Industrial Engineering from Bosphorus University, and in International Relations from Lancaster University. The focus of his research is on the emergent subjectivities that transgress spatial/temporal conventions, especially as they challenge the ontological coherence of the neoliberal conception of security. He is currently completing his dissertation entitled “‘Placeless’ Defense: The Normative Turn in Military Technology” .


From Statelessness to “Placelessness”: The Emergent Challenge to Place-based Security Mechanisms

Full Paper



Jyotsna Srivastava, Banaras Hindu University             

Bionote: Jyotsna Srivastava is pursuing her PhD form Malaviya Centre for Peace Research. Her research focuses on binaries of migration and gender. She holds Master degree in "Conflict Management and Development". She attended a Summer Course at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where she worked on "Religion and Foreign Policy". She has worked as Research Assistant with a Full Bright Professor from USA, on the issue of Casteism and Conflict. She has keen interest in empirical study. Her research interest area includes issues of Refugees and Migrants, Diaspora, Women centric issues.

India Statelessness and Gendered Claim of States



M. Ibrahim Wani, Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir, Jammu & Kashmir  || Email:
M. Ibrahim Wani is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir, and a Doctoral Scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. His academic interests pertain to exploring Identities, Conflict, Media Discourses, Migration, Diaspora& Middle Class Cultural Practices.


Migrants, Crises & Statelessness: Exploring Media Representations of Rohingya Refugees in India



Roopshree Joshi, World Education  ||  Email:
Bionote: Roopshree Joshi works as the Program Coordinator at World Education Inc. She is currently working in projects implemented for migrant workers agricultural bonded laborers, out of school children, trafficking survivors and returnee migrant women. Prior to that she was working at Lutheran World Federation as Project Manager for the livelihood projects for Tibetan refugees and managing the Tibetan Reception Center that facilitates Tibetan new arrivals from Tibet, for their transit to third country. She has a Masters degree in Human Rights and Democratization from the University of Sydney.. Her research interests are in identity, belonging, citizenship, migration and forced migration.


We are waiting - The Aspirations of Tibetan children in Nepal


Full Paper



Shamna Thachampoyil, University of Delhi
Email: shamnamehanaz@gmail. com
ShamnaThachampozhil is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science in the University of Delhi. Her research focuses on the narrative of statelessness of the Rohingyas and the politics of exclusion where denial of citizenship is used as a strategy for ethno-political nation building in Post-colonial Burma, rendering minorities like Rohingyas Stateless. Her M-Phil dissertation titled “Birds of Freedom: Depiction of LTTE militant women in Tamil Cinema” explored the representation of militant women challenging the binary of agency and victimhood. She graduated summa cum laude from her Masters in Conflict studies and Peace Building from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.


‘Regime of Protection’: Problematizing the institutional framework for statelessness






1.        Berta Esperanza Hernández-Truyol and Matthew Hawk, ‘Travelling Boundaries of Statelessness: Global passports and Citizenship’, Cleveland Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 97-119.  

2.      Carol Batchelor, ‘Stateless Persons: Some Gaps in International Protection’, International Journal of Refugee Law, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1995, pp. 232-259. 

3.       Carol Batchelor, ‘Statelessness and Problem of Resolving Nationality Status’, International Journal of Refugee Law, Vol. 10, No.1/2, 1998, pp. 156-183.  

4.      David C. Baluarte, ‘The Risk of Statelessness: Reasserting a Rule for the Protection of the Right to Nationality’, Yale Human Rights and Development Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 47-94. Pages-48 

5.      David Weissbrodt and Clay Collins, ‘The Human Rights of Stateless Persons’, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 28, 2006, pp. 245-276.  

6.      Laura van Waas, ‘Fighting Statelessness and Discriminatory Nationality Laws in Europe’, European Journal of Migration and Law, 14 (2012) 243–260.  

7.      Mark Manly and Laura van Waas, ‘The State of Statelessness Research: A Human Rights Imperative’, Tilburg Law Review, 19 (2014), pp.3-10.  

8.      Mark Manly and Santhosh Persaud, ‘UNHCR and Responses to Statelessness’, Forced migration Review, pp. 7-10.  

9.      Pascale McLean, ‘Incomplete Citizenship, Statelessness and Human Trafficking: A Preliminary Analysis of the Current Situation in West Bengal, India’ Policies and Practices, MCRG, Kolkata

10. Statelessness, Protection and Equality, Forced Migration Policy Briefing 3, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford, 2009