Spain - Supreme Court (Contentious-Administrative Chamber), appeal no. 3768/2010

Saharawi refugees living in its camps have not explicitly or implicitly been recognised as Algerian nationals, by the Algerian Government. The applicant’s passport issued by the Algerian Government grants the status of a travel document. Specifically, it was granted to allow the applicant to travel for medical reasons. The applicant’s stateless status must be recognised.

Case name (in original language)
Sentencia del Tribunal Supremo, Sala de lo Contencioso, recurso nº 3768/2010
Case status
Case number
ECLI: ES:TS:2012:3754
Spanish Supreme Court (Contentious-Administrative Chamber), appeal no. 3768/2010, ECLI: ES:TS:2012:3754, 29 May 2012
Date of decision
Court / UN Treaty Body
Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo)
Language(s) the decision is available in
Applicant's country of birth
Applicant's country of residence
Relevant Legislative Provisions

Article 1 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, 28 September 1954

Ley Orgánica 4/2000, de 11 de enero, sobre derechos y libertades de los extranjeros en España y su integración social (Aliens Act). 

Real Decreto 865/2001, de 20 de julio, por el que se aprueba el Reglamento de reconocimiento del estatuto de apátrida (Status Determination Procedure Regulation). 


The applicant is of Saharawi origin, born in the former Spanish Sahara. The applicant had been living in the Saharawi refugee camps. The applicant arrived in Spain in 2007 with an Algerian passport and applied to be recognised as stateless in 2008. The Ministry of Interior rejected his application based on the fact that the applicant had an Algerian passport. The National High Court overturned the decision of the Ministry of Interior, which was later on confirmed by the Supreme Court. The decision was based on the fact that the Algerian passport was only issued as a travel document and that it does not imply the recognition of applicant’s nationality by the Algerian government.

Decision & Reasoning
  1. The passport provided by Algeria was only for humanitarian reasons so that the applicant could fly to countries where the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is not recognised as a State. Therefore, the provision of a passport by Algeria was not an explicit recognition of the nationality of the applicant;
  2. Nor in the administrative file of the applicant´s request nor in the contested judgment it has been admitted that the applicant enjoy the status of "refugee" in the technical-legal sense of the 1951 Geneva Convention;
  3. Regarding the time period when the application was submitted, the denial cannot be based on the presumption of art. 4.2 SDP Regulation, once the substantive reasons for the contested resolution to deny the appellant the recognition of stateless status have been disproved.

No violation. The Court upheld the inferior court’s decision to overturn the Government’s rejection of the statelessness status.

Caselaw cited

Sentencia del Tribunal Supremo, de 18 de julio de 2008 (appeal no. 555/2005)

Sentencia del Tribunal Supremo, de 19 de diciembre de 2008 (appeal no. 7337/2005)

Sentencia del Tribunal Supremo, de 20 de junio de 2011 (appeal no. 5767/2007), among others