Italy – Court of Florence (Contentious - Civil Court), first instance decision of 24-29 November 2011

The authorities denied statelesness status to the applicant, holding that he could have applied for both Ghanaian and Malian nationality, countries the applicant had links with.The Court of Florence overturned this decision, holding that the standard of proof must be lower and similar to that used to identify a "foreigner eligible for international protection" under Italian law. The lower standard of proof means the Court can recognise statelessness status even when no full evidence of facts is submitted, provided that the applicant has used his reasonable endeavours to substantiate his application, could provide sufficient justification for the absence of significant facts, has submitted plausible and consistent statements, has lodged his application as soon as practicable or has had a good reason for delay, and can be regarded as a credible person.

Case name (in original language)
Tribunale ordinario di Firenze, sezione civile IV, Pres. Rel. Est. Dott. Luca Minniti
Case status
Decided
Case number
7397/2019
Citation
Italy – Court of Florence (Contentious- Civil Court), first instance, case 7397/2019
Date of decision
State
Court / UN Treaty Body
Civil Court of Florence (Tribunale ordinario di Firenze)
Language(s) the decision is available in
Italian
Applicant's country of birth
Mali
Applicant's country of residence
Italy
Relevant Legislative Provisions
  • 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
  • Italian Decree 251/07 implementing Directive 2004/83/EC.
  • Italian Decree 25 July 1998, no. 286 concerning immigration regulations and rules on the status of foreigners.
  • 2011 Code Des Personnes et de la Famille of Mali.
  • 1992 Constitution of Ghana and 2000 Citizenship Act.
Facts

Born in Mali, the applicant claims that he was adopted by a Ghanaian family and moved to Ghana. The applicant claim that his adoptive parents died soon after adoption and he was forced to leave. He did not obtain either Malian or Ghanaian nationality. Without documents he fled to Niger while his wife moved to Burkina Faso. He claims that he cannot return to Ghana because he is threatened. The Florence Administrative Commission for International Protection denied refugee status under Article 1(a) 1951 Geneva Convention and protection under Article 14 of Italian Decree 251/07 ratifying Directive 2004/83/EC, finding that the applicant could have been granted both Malian and Ghanaian nationality.

The decision was appealed before the Civil Court of Florence, which, applying the principles established by the Italian Supreme Court, overturned the decision of the Commission and recognised statelessness status.

Decision & Reasoning

The Court of Florence overturned the Commission's decision, recognising statelessness status on the basis of the principles set out by the Italian Supreme Court case law (case 4262/2015). In particular, to prove statelessness status, the standard of proof has to be "mitigated" (onere della prova attenuato) and similar to that used to identify a "foreigner eligible for international protection" under Italian law. 

1.Statelessness status must be considered as similar to the status of a foreigner who is entitled to international protection (i.e., full respect for human and fundamental rights).

2.A plausible, gap-free and credible story is sufficient to ascertain the existence of statelessness status (Supreme Court decision in case 4262/2015). In order to apply Article 1 of the 1954 Statelessness Convention, it is necessary to look not only at the formal conditions but also at the factual conditions, examining the overall material situation of the applicant without limiting the examination to only a formal review of the documents and evidence acquired.

In particular, the application of the "mitigated" standard of proof means the Court can recognise statelessness status even when no full evidence of facts is submitted, provided that the applicant: has used his reasonable endeavours to substantiate his application; could provide sufficient justification for the absence of significant facts; has submitted plausible and consistent statements, which must also be related to general and specific information concerning his case; has lodged his application as soon as practicable or has had a good reason for delay; can be regarded as a credible person.

3.In assessing whether the person could have obtained nationality of other countries, it is necessary to consider only the legislation of the countries in which the person has a "legally relevant link".

4.A dual track between the administrative procedure and civil court proceedings must be ensured for the determination of statelessness status.

5.In this case, the Court of Florence concluded that the applicant could not be considered either 'Malian' or 'Ghanaian' as he could not satisfy either domestic law on nationality. In particular, with regard to Mali, he would satisfy Malian law requirements only theoretically thanks to the Malian nationality of his parents but, in any event, his factual circumstances were not sufficient to establish a link with that country. With regard to Ghana, the personal links were well established; however, both the 'adoption' by Ghanaian nationals and the relationship with his Ghanaian wife were only 'de facto', with no formal recognition in both cases.

Therefore, the court recognised the statelessness status to the applicant.

Outcome

The applicant is granted statelessness status by the Court of Florence which relies on the principles established by the Italian Supreme Court case law.