A still from the documentary 'Invisibles', which focuses on unaccompanied minors in Italy | Photo: ANSA/UNICEF
A still from the documentary 'Invisibles', which focuses on unaccompanied minors in Italy | Photo: ANSA/UNICEF

Some 732 people are officially recognized as stateless in Italy. But the real number could be between 3,000 and 15,000 people, according to a UNHCR report on statelessness in Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

In Italy, there are officially 732 stateless persons. However, due to the difficulty of identifying them, the actual number could be between 3,000 and 15,000 people. Most of them came from former Yugoslavia and arrived in Italy when they were very young; or they were born in Italy to Yugoslavian migrant parents. 

A recent UNHCR report on the impact of statelessness on access to human rights in Italy, Spain, and Portugal contained these figures. A key issue, according to the paper, is how long it takes to be granted statelessness status in Italy. The authors mention the case of Dari as an example: It took the 28-year-old 13 years to get it. 

UNHCR Regional Representative for Southern Europe Roland Schilling called on Italy to make recognition procedures more accessible, effective and rapid. He also said that stateless people should be recognized as Italian citizens at birth. Italian law, he said, already provides for this but the law is not implemented.

Spain: 3,594 stateless people

In Portugal, there are 553 people officially recognized as stateless, many of whom were born and raised in Portugal, but their families come from former Portuguese colonies.  

In Spain, between 2001 and 2016, some 3,594 people were recognized as stateless, most of whom were of Sahrawi origins and migrated to Spain. 

Worldwide: 3.9+ million people stateless

UNHCR noted there are at least 3.9 million people in the world who are stateless. The real number is likely much higher, possibly around 10 million, considering that statistics for statelessness are available only for a third of all countries worldwide. 

What does it mean to be stateless? 

Stateless people are not considered citizens of any country and thus are not assured access to rights linked to citizenship. These people often do not have access to basic rights such as being able to attend school, receive medical care, get a job, open a bank account, or get married. 


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