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 was born in China and is of Tibetan origin. He fled China to Nepal, and then made his way to Belgium through India on a fake passport. His asylum applications failed, he has been detained with a view to deportation to China, but had been released due to the Chinese authorities not issuing the necessary documents. The applicant also unsuccessfully attempted to organise voluntary return through IOM, contacting authorities of China, India, and Nepal. These facts convinced the Court to recognise the applicant as stateless.
The applicant arrived in Belgium in 2000 from Kazakhstan. He claimed to have lost his Kazakh nationality on the basis of a Kazakh law providing for such loss in case of permanent residence abroad for over 3 years without registration at the consulate. The Court studied the relevant Kazakh legislation as well as the implementing Presidential Decree, and found that such loss is not automatic, but requires a decision of a competent authority instead, and therefore the applicant's statelessness was not sufficiently substantiated.
The applicant fled Kosovo in 1998, and during her asylum procedures in Belgium claimed to be a Yugoslav national, and had a Yugoslav passport as well as a birth certificate. In her statelessness determination process, the authorities and the Court found her to be uncooperative as she seemingly did not present all her identity documents to the embassy of Serbia and Montenegro with the aim of determining whether she is a Serbian national.
The applicant belongs to the Armenian ethnic minority in Azerbaijan. The Court declared her stateless, as the consular representatives of Azerbaijan in Belgium clearly refused to recognise her as a national on the basis of her ethnicity, even though by operation of law she may in fact have acquired Azerbaijani nationality. In determining her statelessness, the Court took into account the fact that she was previously unable to be recognised as Armenian, and does not have connections with any other States.
The Court of Cassation clarified that the fact that judges should refuse to apply the existing regulations because these violate the principle of equal treatment, does not have as a consequence that stateless persons automatically fall under the category of aliens authorised to stay on the territory by law, or are automatically equated to a recognised refugee. They still need to be granted leave to remain.
The Court of Cassation held that judges are obliged to remedy every legislative gap that has been found unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. By refusing to grant a right of residence to a recognised stateless person without investigating whether he had involuntarily lost his nationality, and if he had demonstrated that he could not obtain a durable residence permit in another state with which he has ties, the Court of Appeal of Liège violated articles 10 and 11 of the Constitution.
When a Palestinian refugee has left the territory covered by UNRWA’s mandate, she or he does no longer benefit from that protection. Thus, she or he cannot be legitimately excluded from the Statelessness Convention.
The recognition of stateless status cannot be denied on the basis that the applicant has not undertaken the necessary steps in order to regain the lost nationality, even if it was voluntarily renounced.
In order to be recognised as stateless, the applicant does not have to prove that she or he cannot acquire another nationality.
The refusal to grant family allowance to a recognised stateless person because of the lack of a residence permit amounts to discrimination between stateless persons and refugees. Such difference of treatment arises from a legislative gap that had been identified in an earlier judgement and not filled yet by the legislator.
The absence of any legislative provision granting persons recognised as stateless in Belgium a residence right, comparable to that enjoyed by recognised refugees, is discriminatory.