If stateless individuals are not lawfully staying in the country, Contracting States may provide travel documents but the decision to grant them is discretionary, provided it is free from arbitrariness. A person applying for travel documents can be reasonably expected to return to their previous place of residence and apply for the nationality of their country of origin.
Art. 28 Convention relating to the status of stateless persons of 28 September 1954 (the "Convention")
The applicants used to live in Lithuania, a former part of the Soviet Union and now an independent country. They belong to the minority of Russians and Ukrainians in Lithuania. The applicants applied for asylum in Germany but their applications were rejected, therefore they did not lawfully reside in Germany. They applied for travel documents which were also denied by the German authorities.
The applicants submit that they could not reasonably be expected to apply for the grant of Russian nationality to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Lithuania. To apply for Russian nationality, they would need to travel to Lithuania and attend the Russian embassy there. If they did that, it would be unclear how the local authorities would deal with them as stateless persons. Also, they never lived in Russia and could not be expected to become Russian.
The applicants could still successfully apply for the nationality of the country of origin, which is Russia in this case, because they belong to the Russian minority in Lithuania.
In accordance with the second sentence of Article 28 of the Convention, the Contracting States may issue travel documents to any stateless person not lawfully residing in their territory, in particular giving favourable consideration to the possibility of issuing such travel documents to stateless persons present in their territory who are unable to obtain a travel document from the country in which they are lawfully resident.
The applicants failed to demonstrate an error of assessment in their applications. The applicants did not demonstrate on what grounds it would be unreasonable to return to Lithuania to submit applications for acquisition of Russian nationality, based on the circumstances. They are expected to do everything in accordance with the local law of their country of origin to obtain the nationality of that country. Since they insisted during their application for asylum that they belong to the Russian minority in Lithuania, they can be reasonably expected to apply for the acquisition of Russian nationality from the Russian embassy in Lithuania without any difficulty, even if they never lived in Russia.
The Court dismissed the applicants' appeal.
BverwG, judgment dated 16 July 1996 - 1 C 30.93