France – Cour administrative d’appel de Paris, 7ème chambre, Judgment No. 19PA04250

A Palestinian refugee was living in Lebanon and benefited from the protection of UNRWA before leaving for France and applying for statelessness status in France. After the Conseil d’État quashed a decision granting the applicant statelessness status and referred the case back to the Administrative Court of Appeal, the Court found that the applicant still benefitted from effective protection from UNRWA, as she did not fall under any of the conditions identified by the Conseil d’État in which a Palestinian refugee who is outside UNRWA’s area of operation must be considered as no longer effectively benefiting from UNRWA’s protection.

Case name (in original language)
Cour administrative d’appel de Paris, 7ème chambre, 29/09/2020, 19PA04250
Case status
Case number
France, Cour administrative d’appel de Paris (Judgment No. 19PA04250) 29 September 2020
Date of decision
Court / UN Treaty Body
Cour administrative d’appel de Paris
Language(s) the decision is available in
Applicant's country of birth
Applicant's country of residence
Relevant Legislative Provisions
  • Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, New York, 28 September 1954 - Article 1
  • European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) - Article 8
  • Code of entry and stay of foreigners and asylum law (le code de l'entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d'asile, CESEDA) - article L. 812-1
  • Code of Administrative Justice
  • Law n° 91-647 of 10 July 1991 on legal aid

The applicant who was born of Palestinian parents in 1986 in a refugee camp in Lebanon and who lived there until 2015, travelled to France in 2015 and asked for recognition of her status as a stateless person based on Article L. 812-1 of the Code de l'Entrée et du Séjour des Étrangers et du Droit d'Asile (CESEDA). The OFPRA (French bureau for the protection of refugees and stateless persons) rejected her request and that decision was annulled by the Administrative Tribunal of Paris on 19 April 2017. On 13 November 2018, the Administrative Court of Appeal of Paris delivered a judgment rejecting the appeal lodged by the OFPRA, which the Conseil d’État (Supreme French Administrative Court) annulled on 24 December 2019 and referred the case back to the Administrative Court of Appeal.

Decision & Reasoning

Article L. 812-1 of the CESEDA refers to the definition of a stateless person provided for in Article 1 of the 1954 Convention. Article 1(2) provides that that Convention does not apply to persons who benefit from protection or assistance of a UN institution as long as they are receiving such protection or assistance. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), created by Resolution n°302 of the UN General Assembly on 8 December 1949 with a mission to bring help to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West bank of Jordan, and the Gaza Strip, must be regarded as a UN institution as defined in Article 1(2) of the 1954 Convention.

The Court therefore held that the 1954 Convention is not applicable to Palestinian refugees so long as they receive effective assistance or protection from UNRWA. Once they lose the effective benefit of such assistance or protection and no State recognises them as one of its nationals, they may apply for the granting of statelessness status under Article L. 812-1 of the CESEDA, subject to other exclusion clauses provided for in Article 1 of the 1954 Convention.

The Court recalled the Conseil d’État’s three hypothesis under which Palestinian refugees are considered not to be effectively protected by UNRWA, namely (1) when a grave threat for their safety forced them to leave the State or territory under UNRWA’s jurisdiction in which they had their habitual residence and prevents them from returning, (2) when such a threat, even if it appeared after the refugees’ departure, prevents them from returning, or (3) when for reasons independent from their will and not related to a threat to their safety, they find it impossible to reach the State / territory where they had habitual residence.

Moreover, considering the requirements of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a Palestinian refugee who has family or personal ties in France must also be considered as no longer receiving effective protection from UNRWA in its area of operation, taking into account notably the length of his/her stay on the territory and the fact that the centre of his/her interests is now in France.

The Court found that the applicant did not meet any of these conditions. She did not demonstrate the existence of a grave threat to her safety which would have forced her to leave her habitual residence, nor the appearance of a threat to her safety after her departure. She also did not dispute the fact that the Lebanese consular authorities would be able to renew her expired identity document which they had delivered to her, and which was still valid at the time of the OFPRA’s decision, making it possible for her to reach Lebanon. In addition, at the time of the OFPRA’s decision, she was single with no children on the French territory and no family ties in France.


The Administrative Court of Appeal annulled the judgment of the Administrative Tribunal and rejected the applicant’s appeal, as it found that the applicant benefitted from effective protection from UNRWA at the time of OFPRA’s decision and therefore may not be granted statelessness status.