Statelessness and forced displacement

Forced displacement can be a cause and consequence of statelessness, but there is insufficient knowledge of the extent and impact of this phenomenon. The Institute aims to increase understanding and develop tools to protect the stateless from forced migration and those who are forcibly displaced from statelessness.

Understanding statelessness in the Syria refugee context

Civil war broke out in Syria in 2011. Since then, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and significant areas of the country have fallen under the control of armed non-State actors. This 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.

Research report

In collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council and with funding from NWO-WOTRO, the Institute has undertaken provide an assessment of the risk of new cases of statelessness arising among Syrian refugees and their children and the particular vulnerabilities of stateless refugees from Syria. The research focused on the countries neighbouring Syria which are hosting the greatest numbers of refugees: Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. The research report is available here.


A specific goal of the project was to inform the development of a “toolkit” to help organisations engaged in the refugee response to better understand the intersections between their work and statelessness.The Toolkit is a collection of information and resources designed to help practitioners in the field to quickly and easily find answers to questions about statelessness in the Syria refugee context. It contains explanatory texts, factsheets, case studies, good practice examples and training videos. This Toolkit is relevant both to practitioners working in the region and to those working with Syrian refugees around the world. Access the toolkit online at

What is the link between statelessness and forced displacement?

The Institute's Senior Researcher Zahra Albarazi and co-Director Dr. Laura van Waas previously collaborated with the Norwegian Refugee Council in the research and publication of a scoping paper on the interaction between statelessness and forced displacement (jointly published with Tilburg University). Input was received from NRC offices around the world in the preparation of this paper, which explains how statelessness can be a root cause of forced displacement, why refugees and other displaced persons may sometimes be at risk of statelessness and what some of the specific vulnerabilities of stateless refugees are. Read the full scoping paper here. You can also find a short briefing note outlining the content of the paper here.