Ireland gives legal status to first ‘stateless’ resident

Roman Uustalu had been living in identification limbo for more than a decade

Ireland has officially recognised its first ever “stateless” resident who had been living here in identification limbo for more than a decade.

Roman Uustalu (36), who moved to Ireland in 2002, was born in Ida-Virumaa, a territory in the former USSR that became modern-day Estonia in 1991. Then 14 years old, Mr Uustalu, who is of Russian ethnicity, was eligible only for an "alien's passport" from the Estonian government which did not grant universal citizenship to those within its borders.

Alien's passport
As a result, anyone with an alien's passport found themselves with "undefined" citizenship.

Until this week the Wexford resident, who had travelled here on a work permit, was unable to secure official recognition of his "statelessness" and remained without documentation in Ireland. He had been initially able to travel on his alien's passport with visa but that documentation expired in 2010 and could not be renewed.

Reacting last night, Mr Uustalu said he would now be able to travel again and could even go on holidays with his wife Agita and finally meet her extended family in Latvia.


It also frees the path for him to apply for Irish citizenship.

“I feel a lot of happiness. It was like a shock, you know. It was always like a big rock on my shoulders,” he said.

Karen Berkeley of Brophy Solicitors, who took his case, explained he had been unable to secure official classification here because "no legal or administrative process" has been established to deal with such applications.

'Ireland's obligations'
"This is despite Ireland's obligations pursuant to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons which Ireland has ratified," she said.

Last year, Mr Uustalu brought High Court proceedings in an effort to rectify his situation. On Thursday, however, Ms Berkeley finally received word from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that her client had been granted a declaration of statelessness.

Ms Berkeley said he can now avail of a “stateless person travel document” which has existed in Ireland but which has never before been given out.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times