The applicant is of Roma ethnic origin, with parents from former Yugoslavia, who was born, grew up, and worked his whole life in Austria. He has had a permanent residence permit until 1995, when the latter was withdrawn due to applicant's criminal convictions. The Court found the applicant to be stateless, and determined that expulsion of a stateless person without a former country of habitual residence amounts to violation of Article 3 ECHR.
The judgment relies on earlier Constitutional Court judgments that have established that stateless persons who lost their nationality involuntarily and demonstrated that they do not have the right to permanent legal residence elsewhere should get residence rights in Belgium on an equal footing with refugees, and that the necessary national legislation is lacking to give effect to such rights. The applicant has a criminal record and was denied residence rights on that basis, but the Court ruled that criminal convictions are irrelevant for his residence rights, and ordered authorities to regularise his residence until new legislation comes to force that regulates the stateless persons' right to residence.
The applicant is a Saharawi man who was born in the former Spanish Sahara and who, in 1979, fled to the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf (Algeria), where he lived until 2005, when he arrived in Spain after being issued a passport by the Algerian authorities. In Spain, he applied for statelessness status. The Ministry of Interior rejected his application based on his Algerian passport, but this decision was overturned, on appeal, by the High Court, which found that Algerian passports are just travel documents.