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Book review: Nationality and Statelessness in the International Law of Refugee Status by Eric Fripp


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In this thoughtful and full exploration of refugee law, nationality and statelessness Eric Fripp explores some interesting and underdeveloped themes. Added to his earlier and excellent work from 2015, The Law and Practice of Expulsion and Exclusion from the United Kingdom, Eric is establishing himself as pre-eminent in this important and growing area of work.

The title of Fripp’s latest work, Nationality and Statelessness in the International Law of Refugee Status, almost misleads the casual legal bookshop browser, given that large parts of the book cover the more general topics of the law of refugee status and principles of interpretation. It would be a mistake to see this book purely as a practitioner text for it is not intended as one; it would equally be a mistake to think it is confined entirely to the issues of nationality and statelessness. Of necessity, Eric also includes a lot of interesting and useful legal context.

As a practitioner I was drawn to the chapters with potential direct practical application. Chapter 4 on nationality as a Convention reason includes interesting material on the ‘politico-legal’ versus ‘historic-biological’ approaches to defining the concept of nationality, dual nationality and absence of nationality, i.e. statelessness, as a Convention reason. I cannot immediately recall arguing a refugee case on the basis of nationality, even with the very open interpretation of the Qualification Directive coming into effect from 2006, but Eric makes a good case for there being instances where nationality would have practical application.

Chapter 5 explores the issues around the words in the Convention “the country of his nationality”. These words feature in the part of the refugee definition addressing potentially available protection. Where protection is available, refugee status generally is not. Eric argues that potential nationality of a country is not sufficient for the purposes of protection being available.

Chapter 6 on persecution by denial of nationality is a very interesting read. It includes a wealth of material on what constitutes “persecution” and on effective denial of nationality, or at least of the core¬†rights of nationality, and on denial or withholding of nationality.

The final chapter addresses cessation of refugee status and the voluntary re-availment of nationality.

Nationality, citizenship and belonging are becoming increasingly important areas of contest between individuals and states. Globalisation is not so much eroding the system of nation-states as causing its resurgence, at least for the time being. We are experiencing something of a Counter-Reformation. Linked to that, some nation states are exploring the use of nationality and citizenship status to exclude unwanted or perceived undesirable residents from their territory or, failing that, at least to deprive them of their rights as citizens.

Eric is at the forefront of exploring the legal context to this trend and his two works provide really useful analysis and material on this developing area of law.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.