Stateless Persons

A stateless person is any person who is not considered as a national by any state through its nationality legislation or constitution.


It is estimated that approximately 12 million people around the world are stateless. In Kenya the number is estimated to be around 100,000 people, but a profiling exercise still has to be conducted.

Legal Instruments

Statelessness at the global level has been defined by two international instruments:

  1. The 1954 Convention relating to the status of statelessness and;
  2. The 1961 Convention on the reduction of Statelessness.

The two treaties, while being ratified only by a limited number of states, are completed by international and regional human rights treaties setting out obligations for a much greater number of states parties. These treaties, together with the 1954 and 1961 Conventions, form part of an international legal regime establishing minimum standards of treatment of stateless persons. As part of their sovereign power, under general international law, States set rules for acquisition, loss and change of nationality. However, sovereign States, in the matters of nationality, are still bound by international treaties and norms of international customary law.

In Kenya the legal and administrative framework is not adequate to deal with the issue of stateless persons, but the new constitution provides a better framework within which the rights of stateless persons or those at risk of statelessness may be better protected. However it will be necessary to remove the discriminatory provisions that exist in regard to acquisition of citizenship

UNHCR and KNCHR: “Out of the shadows towards ensuring the rights of stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness in Kenya”, July 2010