Source: European Network on Statelessness
By Valeriia Cherednichenko, PhD researcher in Advanced Studies in Human Rights at Charles III University of Madrid (Spain)
The majority of the applications for the statelessness status in Spain come from applicants of Western Saharan origin, or Sahrawis. However, this issue does not get as much attention as it deserves from the Spanish authorities or wider society, leaving them without benefits of recognition as stateless. This stands in contradiction with the Spanish Supreme Court’s jurisprudence in recent years, which has granted the status of statelessness to a considerable number of these applicants. In this regard, the Supreme Court case law has considered three distinct questions when dealing with cases of statelessness from applicants of Saharan origin depending on the specific background of these applicants. First, the Court considered the case of those applicants that come from the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria and whether they are in possession of Algerian nationality. Secondly, the Court developed a doctrine concerning the possible attribution of a Moroccan nationality to applicants of Saharan origin born in the territories occupied by the Kingdom of Morocco since 1975. The third question addressed in Sahrawi cases concerned whether the applicants registered by MINURSO (the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), by which they may be deemed to be receiving protection and assistance from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, would be considered as an exception of application of the Convention relating to the status of stateless persons 1954.
On the 5th of September 2013, for the first time, a person of Sahrawi origin was recognised as stateless by the Spanish Minister of Interior upon the proposal of the General Directorate of the Internal Policy. This case stands out among others as it shows a new approach of the Ministry of Interior towards the cases of stateless Sahrawis. This successful case is the result of the serious and rigorous work of the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR-Euskadi) that has assisted the applicant throughout the process, starting with the application for the recognition of the statelessness status in Bilbao.